The wonderful thing about Edinburgh Fringe is that it’s the ideal place for the kind of stories that would struggle to find a home anywhere else. Sasha Wilson’s The Brief Life & Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria is a war story about the ‘good guys’ and tells the largely forgotten history of the penultimate King of Bulgaria.
It’s the outbreak of World War II and Bulgaria, and it’s King, have a decision to make; it’s not an easy one! Which side should the country join? Boris’s father lost territory in the last war and Boris III hopes it can be reclaimed with the help of Hitler and his Nazi party, even if that does sit uneasily on the King’s conscience.
Soon Germany is insisting that Bulgaria implements Nazi policies, particularly around the registration of Jewish people and support for the ‘Final Solution’. With Nazi sympathisers in his own government, Boris must stand alone to protect the Bulgarian Jews.
The true story is interesting enough as it is, but to prevent it becoming too much of a history lesson, it comes with a kind of absurd comedy that remains consistently funny throughout, despite the serious subject matter – but if Dad’s Army and the last scene of Blackadder can do it, why can’t Sasha Wilson with The Brief Life & Mysterious Death of Boris III?
To further accentuate the comedy aspects, there are links to current day politics, with some not so subtle hints to Trump and Brexit. King Boris is sometimes likened to a politician who shares the same moniker, whether our former Prime Minister would have sided with Hitler for personal gain is for you to decide, but it’s worth remembering that the Boris in this play did do some good.
The talented cast of actor musicians provide the production with a score comprised of Jewish and Bulgarian folk music which sounds glorious, and nicely creates the right atmosphere and occasionally takes The Brief Life & Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria into the realms of gig theatre.
The Brief Life & Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria brings us a fascinating story and does so in an innovative way. Sasha Wilson’s script leads us confidently into the past and shows us the truth about one of the few people who stood up to Hitler and in turn saved thousands of Jewish Bulgarian lives.