Sunday, September 24

The Brief Life and Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria – Pleasance Dome

What a cracking beginning to my Edinburgh Fringe Festival!   After seeing Out Of The Forest Theatre’s Call Me Fury at The Hope Theatre in London in 2019, I was compelled to pay a return visit to their newest play.

Here is a rough synopsis.  Boris III became King after his father abdicated in 1918 after World War I, he married Princess Giovanna of Italy and in 1937 his son Simeon was born.  Neither Boris, nor his father Ferdinand were Bulgarian due to the Turks occupying Bulgaria for 500 years, but they carried the burden of taking care of the people of Bulgaria now that Bulgaria was independent. 

Here is where the play begins, with Boris III, now married and the country is peaceful.  Until of course World War II began!  Boris (played by Joseph Cullen) is feeling the pressure, Nazi Germany appears to have won over the leaders of the Bulgarian parliament, and even though Boris feels that he does not want to capitulate to Hitler, he is left with no alternative.

The whole piece flows so well, with music and humour intertwined around the narrative.  The traditional music is played by the multi-talented ensemble, who play multiple roles, whilst keeping the narrative on track.  Joseph Cullen naturally moves between anguish and wit, and even finds time to communicate with the audience.  This story is a heart wrenching one, so many died due to the persecution of Jews in Bulgaria, and the emotion and frustration at the difficulty of their predicament is moving at times, but the atmosphere is lightened with humour. 

This play is fast moving, and the ensemble – Joseph Cullen, Sasha Wilson (who also wrote the play), Laurence Boothman, Clare Fraenkel and David Leopold, make this history lesson a multi-sensory experience!  Director and Dramaturg Hannah Hauer-King has done an amazing job with this show, and the writers have enabled a tale to be told, which may never have re-surfaced otherwise.

If you are at Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year, then look no further than this play, you will not be disappointed!

To book tickets to the show go to –  The show runs until 28th August.

Reviewer: Caroline Worswick

Reviewed: 4th August 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.