Author Archives: Katherina Radeva


About Katherina Radeva

Katherina Radeva was born in Bulgaria, and has resided in the UK since 1999. Katherina is a theatre maker, a set and costume designer, and a creative collaborator. She is one half of Total Theatre Award winning duo Two Destination Language whose intercultural dialogues in theatrical forms tour extensively in the UK and internationally. Her work brings striking visuals to audiences across theatre, dance and interdisciplinary work. In addition to making live performance, she paints, draws and writes in response to her lived experience while resisting the label of autobiographical work. Living in a rural place, Katherina is fascinated by the interplay of communities large and small. She really wants a dog, but worries she's away from home too much.

Jennifer Irons: Yukon Ho! (Tall Tales from the Great White North)

A woman laden with a giant rucksack enters the space. Her movement is slow, careful, as if she is walking through a snowstorm. She is wearing a giant coat with a large hood, her boots look warm and the rucksack on her back feels heavy. She waves a flag! She plants it on the ground and acknowledges the land.

This is the third show at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe in which I am witness to the acknowledging of the land, but not the land we stand on right now – instead, a land far away, a land unknown to me, a land whose cultural history is not my own. And yet, with that acknowledgment comes a great sense of knowledge of what has been, and how this moment in time relates to the bigger narrative, the lineage of time and history, and of the things we like to remember and the things we try to brush under the carpet.

So, from that moment on I am with the woman with the big heavy boots, laden by weight, re-staking a land. Her land, her past, her heritage!

Yukon Ho! (Tall Tales from the Great White North) is a beautifully complex work about grief, home and Can-Can dancing. It is also about survival and about death. It is human and raw, funny and melancholic. It is like life – a tale of those who survive, and those who don’t. A tale of hope, and seeking a better future. A migrant tale of what it is to cut roots off and try and replant in another place.

It takes me a little while to begin to follow the layered narratives. Narratives so sweet and narratives so bitter.

A story of drinking 22 shots between dancing the Can-Can in different bars

A story of how to fight a bear

A story of losing a friend, and then another, and another

A story of being an ex-Yukoner and how that feels

A story of survival skills, many survival skills

A drinking story, and another but this time for real – next to me is a chopped toe in a shot of alcohol. Of course there is, it’s the Yukon in Edinburgh, in August, in 2019.

And all these little stories, all of them full of heart and socio-political contexts, all of them stack up to a piece so beautiful and poignant right now – a migrant’s tale in a fractured land (Britain); a show about survival. And all the survival skills we are taught with humour and delight don’t and can’t prepare us for a much bigger sense in which a survival skills of how to deal with loss is the stuff that no-one teaches you and nothing can prepare you for. There is no medicine for it, there is just time for healing.

And so this work slowly and persistently gets under my skin and breaks me so gently to sob like a little girl for those I have left behind; for all the people and places I will never see – and how they, with their beauty and tardiness have moulded me.

And so I go back to the land, to the acknowledging of the land – with its history and its nature and the things it takes from us and all the incredible memories it gives us. 



Groupwork: The Afflicted

4 women in t-shirts and skirts, little socks and trainers, standing next to each other huddled up in a shape fit for teenage girl band poster image

4 red chairs, the kind you see in schools

4 microphones on stands with red cables

A video screen suspended at the back of the stage mid way up

The women (or girls as they are referred to in the show) begin to move slowly, precisely, with aim and purpose. A choreography of large and small gestures is precisely located in the tightly packed space.

There are fragments of stories, about a group of teenage girls who are behaving strangely, in Hope River, upstate New York. Ticks and twitches are unexplained, a girl starts and the others follow in ‘possessed’ moves.

Part documentary, part research, part interview-based drama, part dance, this beautifully constructed work takes me on a journey of really wanting to know what happened to the Hope River Girls and yet I know right from the start that will not happen in this theatre show.

No matter! I am hooked in. Each section of the work reveals a new layer of possible explanation of the cause of the twitching. Is it reborn witchcraft? Is it a medical condition? Is it mass psychogenic illness? Is it staged and performed?

What is it?

The most interesting part of the work for me is posing the question: How do you treat something you don’t believe is there? How can you? How can you get invested into a thing when your whole being is saying: it does not exist, this cannot be. How do you try to understand something you have no probable explanation for – and indeed no interest in understanding? Because some things remain just that: unexplained, unknown.

I, for one, am very interested in the unknown, with its attractive, cunning ways – it lures us into wanting to believe a version of events. This show is a lure, gently dangling interesting facts and yanking away theories. It juxtaposes different forms of communication through video, text and movement – each one inextricably linked to the others, inseparable, the modes in communication with one another and with us.

Ultimately, The Afflicted is a complex work about what we don’t know. About why some stuff happens, about our fascination with the unexplained and about the fascinating jigsaw puzzles we construct in trying to explain. Understanding is a process, an effort, the result of our pattern-forming rational brain trying to construct meanings and answers. The Afflicted declines to offer answers and in this dancing, teasing, refusal lies its greatest strength, its beauty and its complexity.


Featured image (Top) Groupwork: The Afflicted. Photo by Michaela Bodlovic.

Groupwork: The Afflicted is presented at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019 as part of the Made in Scotland showcase.

Volcano Theatre: The Populars

Ever wondered what the cafe in Edinburgh’s Summerhall venue looks like after hours? Going to see The Populars is one way to find out. No chairs, no tables, an empty space with glorious wooden floor. A floor ready to be danced on. As we enter, the four performers are already dancing and they are definitely giving it their all. They need to –  in this Fringe audience, I am one of seven and a lot rides on us giving them back as much as we can. I really want this to work, whatever this might turn out to be… 

The Populars is a show which merges the love of dance (your regular, enjoying yourself dancing) and – wait for it – politics! Those two things I love! I love dancing and I love politics! They are both very complex and I love complexity!

As the show starts, and I begin to think about assumptions – because I am worried that I won’t get to sit down for the next hour and a bit. And on that day, on that night, I really need a sit down. Never mind, I say to myself, I need to make this work for them, for the cast who have been dancing for ten minutes now – and they are really giving it their all.

The first direct audience participation, and there is a lot of it – in fact there isn’t a bit without it – starts with a question. Is it cool to talk to you? I like that question, but then quickly we get into a deep territory of: Where are you from? And where is home? 

As an immigrant, I have a complex relationship those questions and I love complex relationships but how it’s asked becomes everything.

I answer the question they ask me: Where is home? And as I answer, I think to myself: but that isn’t where I am from. And I ponder over that… I ponder how different these questions are for me at this point in time and how these notions of home are never stagnant, never straight forward, never easy to answer – and they change all the time because what is around me changes all the time.

In The Populars, what is around me changes all the time. I am placed within the room in many different semantic relationships. I am awfully close to some people, really far away from others, I am dancing on my own and with others, and I am observing. I listen. I listen to the words of the performers – words about loving a particular band, words about some European countries, words about people speaking and not speaking Welsh, words about voting Leave, random factual words about places in Europe, words about the pink pound, words about the economy, words I now can’t fully remember – but words, snippets, not entirely going anywhere, just going sideways somewhere; words about big subjects landing on that wooden floor and then danced on, danced around, but never picked up and properly unpicked.

Because it is complex stuff, these words, and they need space to land and sit in that space. They need breathing space and, like the performers who are still very much giving it their all, I want this to work so much. But I can’t see how it can, I can’t see how the complex notions of politics and Europe can sit comfortably in a dance-hall (or half-deserted cafe) – because it isn’t simple, it has never been simple and right now, in the summer of 2019 it is definitely so far from simple!

And perhaps that is the point here, the point of The Populars is that actually where Britain is sitting right now, isn’t that popular, it isn’t so cool. Are we – and I put myself in the ‘we’ right now – are we trying to just forget that this divisive nightmare is happening? The notions of Europe and Brexit can’t be easily danced off, danced away, despite giving it our all. For a moment I look around in this half-empty room with nice floors: Am I the only person who isn’t laughing here doing silly croissant moves, and is that because I am the only immigrant? Or it is because that is all there is left to do?



Mr & Mrs Clark: Louder Is not Always Clearer

Louder Is not Always Clearer is a two man duet. A man in a T-shirt is sitting behind a desk, facing the audience. On the desk there is a computer.

Another man is wearing a white doctor’s coat behind a second desk. On this desk are a computer and a sound mixing desk. On the stage are a microphone, a stand, a projection screen, a loudspeaker, a bucket.

The show is about Jonny: Jonny is d/Deaf. It is also about how we, the majority of the audience, the hearing audience, communicate and often miscommunicate with d/Deaf people. It is an attempt to communicate what is often hard to communicate. The honest truth of being misunderstood.

There are many touching moments in the work. It starts with learning to speak, to make sounds. It is often hard, you see the strain in Jonny’s face, his neck muscles moving to the sounds.

Listening to the recorded voice of Jonny’s mum is particularly powerful. Her voice speaks of so much prejudice, most of it her own, and most of this text addresses how disability was viewed when Jonny was a kid and her coming to accept his deafness and disability now. There are the stories of awkward dates. Stories of having sex with the light on. Stories and attempts of lip reading, for him and for us. Stories of muffled hearing aids and how sometimes the best thing you can do with a hearing aid is to take it off, leave it behind, turn it off, give it to a deaf girl in India. Stories of feeling the bass when dancing. Stories of New Year’s parties and karaoke singing, his friends singing not him. Stories of stigma, prejudice and honesty. 

Stories poignant in relation to these 75 minutes in our hearing world. The hearing world which we as a society have normalised and demand others fit into.

There is a wonderful moment when Jonny signs with two audience members in front of me. I assume they are D/deaf; I see their hearing aids; I for one have no idea what is being communicated, and in that moment that I get a glimpse of what it is to be left out of the loop, what that feels like and how lonely it must sometimes be.

I wish more was made of the relationship between the sound engineer and Jonny, these men who share the stage to tell this story of communication – and yet so little seems to pass between them.

And in a sense I wish there were more of the silences Jonny speaks of, more of the awkwardness, because for us too, sat in the auditorium, this is like one of the awkward dates he speaks of. It is often hard to know how to communicate with people different to what we know, our worries of how to do it right, how we are perceived, how to be sensitive, getting in the way.

And here lies the true impetus of the show: to understand that difference is to know how to embrace it.




Ridiculusmus: Die! Die! Die! Old People Die!

I must come out immediately and say that anyone who suspends a chandelier in any auditorium during the Edinburgh Fringe, should be commended – it sits gloriously out of place and economically signposts the barrier between stage word and ours.

A mahogany round-table, two chairs, a glass of water, that chandelier and a wee round rug set the stage for an hour of slow disintegration. Or perhaps we begin with disintegration and proceed from there.

A bald head pokes out from behind the blacks around the stage. It’s David Woods, caked in pallid white makeup, bent, wearing a crumpled old oversized tux. Behind him, upstage, is the other half of Ridiculusmus, Jon Haynes, in grey wig, a white cardie and long pearl necklaces, and a sort of Victorian take on a skirt. These gathered signs of age take an age to cross to centre, while a clock ticks.

This entry is a chapter. For the lady (Vi) to reach her seat, perched on this shaky gentleman’s arm, takes ten or so minutes and during every one of their steps and moves I hold onto my chair, hoping they make it. There is a delight in theatre which offers nothing more than this. A clarity of intention.

Once they have come forward to the table a kind of Thank You speech prevails

‘We must thank the caterers’  Vi says. And we all laugh, we laugh because it is kind of unbelievable there were any caterers, ever. Unless we are at a funeral and the woman isn’t really here. Of course, since it’s theatre, the woman, the character, clearly played by a man, doesn’t exist. Our laughter is permitted by the contortions of theatre: we would never laugh at the plight of the old like this. Would we?

I am invested right from the start, I have confidence in these performers and the strange world they create. I watch every move and breath, tuned to subtleties. My focus moves from close examination of their hands, their necks, the sound of the clock ticking, the light changing. And all this in this seemingly empty space is filled with humour, satire, farce. And as a farce, it is  funny and it is very sad – I am laughing as I reflect on the elderly people I know, so it is laughter and care and empathy and admiration I have for these two men on stage.

Then Arthur gets mentioned? Who is Arthur?

Does it matter who Arthur is? Arthur is apparently an old flame of Vi’s – we are not told much about it, but I feel no need to be told much about any of it. The absurdity of moments in the work only add to a sense of despair: Spitting on a sock which misses the sock and lands on the ground. Relentless taking of pills, and forgetting the day of the week, is it Wednesday or Friday? Who cares, just take all of them. Serving a cup of coffee on a white linen cloth – a cloth so crimped and manky. Unscrewing a table to find a pile of notes – notes which kind of relate to what we have seen, kind of don’t relate… but in all of this, what I see comes as a complete picture of time passing, people passing, characters passing, theatre genres passing, the passing of space even.

Die!Die!Die! Is a dark farce where much is made of seemingly nothing. It is a glorious conflagration of the confusions of dementia, warning us of our futures, of the loneliness and lack of care which awaits. It is unforgiving, sketching and destroying relationships in which whole lives have been invested, allowing us to grasp at disintegrating hints of story only to pull them away. There is no catharsis except our laughter: the sign of our inability to take these issues seriously enough.


Featured image (top) Ridiculusmus: Die! Die! Die! Old People Die! Photo by Bryony Jackson