Director Galin Stoev:
I want to squeeze light out of the darkness
We try to deny pain and suffering but they exist and at some point crash down on us
10 November, 2017
Close-up: Galin Stoev was born in 1969 in Varna. He graduated from the National Academy for Film and Theatre Arts as part of the so-called “golden class” of Prof. Krikor Azaryan. Since the 1990s, Stoev has been working in England, Russia, Argentina and mostly Belgium and France, where he settled for a longer period of time. He has produced shows in the National Theatre in Sofia and Comedie-Francaise in Paris. Starting in 2018, he will head the Toulouse National Theatre (Theatre national de Toulouse) as the winner of a rigorous competition. He is currently in Sofia for the rehearsals for a production of Ivan Vyrypaev’s Delhi Dance (original title Tanets Deli) at the National Theatre and in January the show will visit Toulouse for eight nights. His first feature film, The Infinite Garden, is set to open the 2017 Kinomania Film Festival on 16 November.
- Mr Stoev, what made you mark both your return to the National Theatre and your upcoming position at the helm of the Toulouse National Theatre with a production inspired by Russian author Ivan Vyrypaev’s work, which always seems to be infused with an air of suffering? What about his style resonates with the modern reality - both in this corner of the world and in the West?
- In the past decade there has been this overwhelming sense that time is getting more condensed and starting to pass at an accelerated pace. Tragedy in society, in the collective consciousness is constantly accumulating, the feeling of confusion is growing more and more. On the other hand, we live in a society that tries to deny pain. We avoid talking about it, about old age and other unpalatable things, and thus get ourselves in a state of induced amnesia that is supposed to at least partially shield us from suffering. We do not even realise that pain does not go away but rather piles up at some other level until it reaches a critical point and crashes down on us. In other words, it is part of us no matter what, it is just that we studiously ignore it in the edited version of our lives. There is also a trend for art to show us how everything is ruined, lost, all hope is gone, etc. I personally believe that everything is pretty bleak and hopeless already, and the time has come to do the “alchemist’s magic” on all this anguish. Vyrypaev explores this very same thing in his works - he is among the few capable of seeing a glimmer of light in this morose and desolate picture or trying to squeeze light out of the darkness. This is the type of work I would like to do and the type of journey I would like to take actors on.
- Do you plan for this show to find its way to Avignon, the biggest festival forum on the planet, as it has been the case with other of your projects?
- Avignon’s policy over the past few years is to showcase mainly productions that have their premieres there. The festival produces its own shows or makes co-productions with other theatres, but this is something that is normally arranged two or three season prior to the actual debut. In that sense, Avignon is not viewed as a requisite stop, we have no ambitions of entering its programme, because it has already been compiled. To me, it is more important for our theatre projects to start foraying into other markets more, because I have the impression that our context continues to be rather limited and has no reference points that could serve as measuring sticks - our information comes from rumours or people’s personal accounts of their experiences around the world, or even video fragments available on YouTube. But the actual theatre process of creation is out of reach, because we remain huddled in the corner, lacking the healthy self-esteem that we are doing something of value.
- You are set to make your directorial debut at the upcoming 2017 Kinomania Film Festival. What made you shoot your first film, The Infinite Garden, in Bulgaria even though you presumably could have done it abroad?
- I think I could have done it abroad too, but considering that I was wading into completely new and unfamiliar waters, and that perhaps this is a product of insecurity or fear, I wanted to be able to lean on things I knew and that would be less cause for concern for me. I needed the support of people close to me. I used as a starting point material that I was familiar with and have used before - Yana Borisova’s play Pleasantly Scary that I staged at Theatre 199 in Sofia. But I did not want it to be a film adaptation, so it took me two years to write the screenplay, which constantly morphed during the creative process. And the other thing was my desire to tell a story that, while set in Sofia, is not necessarily a dark realism social drama that would yet again prove that this is only a place of horrors.
- The characters in this story are no misfits or marginalised individuals - they are nice, intelligent cosmopolitans, perhaps a touch snobbish. Is this a reflection of your reality or the world as you dream it can be?
- Both. I would never offer a treatment of a topic I am not familiar enough with. The misfits and the marginalised are generally more interesting but, seeing as I have been away from the Bulgarian environment for 15 years, I do not have the confidence of knowing them well enough to tell an authentic story. I was rather more intrigued by a large segment of the public that we do not normally consider fascinating enough to put a spotlight on and yet it accounts for a big chunk of the potential film audience. This is why I am eagerly awaiting the premiere date on 16 November so I can see if the film works on other people or not.
- What do you call home these days?
- Before heading to Bulgaria I vacated my Paris apartment, I have not lived in my Brussels accommodations for a while and I am still to find a home in Toulouse, I plan to begin the search in January. I have an apartment in Sofia but another person lives in it. I made the film in portions and every time I stayed with friends. I do not know how they tolerated my sporadic visits. Now that I am back again, it suddenly dawned on me that I will be staying for 2-3 months and I arranged it with the person living in my apartment to share it temporarily. So I do not have a home at present and if you ask my mother in Varna, I am in a pitiful position. Everything is temporary with me, the only source of stability on which I can rely is to be found within.