The Burning Gadulka

This hour-long dramatic and comedic monologue is a persistent exploration of why the existence of the gadulka – a traditional Bulgarian folk instrument – is the worst thing that ever happened to a gadulka player. The three-stringed instrument is constantly berated and insulted by sole actor Miro Kokenov throughout this fascinating stream of consciousness. It is ugly and depressing, and fits into Bulgarian folk songs only when drowned out by the tupan drum and bagpipes.

At once a nostalgic ode to the traditions that are being killed off by the mechanisation of music, and a screaming good riddance.

The script of this play, written by Rayko Baychev and translated into English by Angela Rodel, is an oddly enthralling glimpse into Bulgarian folklore and traditions. Kokenov is the perfect fit for this part: energetic and engaging, he is seen screaming and wailing at the instrument, encapsulating self-indulgence, mania and heartbreak with skill. He perfectly captures the typically Bulgarian self-flagellating humour, and there are many laugh-out-loud moments throughout the performance. A particularly memorable scene is where Kokenov, lying seductively on his side, tries (unsuccessfully) to avoid telling an imaginary lover that he is a gadulka player. He also goes on to recount the Bulgarian folk orchestra’s madcap adventures on tour in France, and a lot of the comic delivery is achieved by how the obsessions of the Bulgarians are totally out of step with any of the musicians from anywhere else in the world.

It is a shame that we did not get to hear Kokenov play the gadulka for a more extended period, treated only briefly to an intentionally terrible rendition of Für Elise. Then again, giving the gadulka its own space and time to shine would defeat the very point of this one-sided polemic. At once a nostalgic ode to the traditions that are being killed off by the mechanisation of music, and a screaming good riddance.  

Reviews by Jonathan Mayo

Greenside @ Infirmary Street

The Castle

Underbelly, Cowgate

Courtney Pauroso: Gutterplum

The Stand’s New Town Theatre

Limmy: Surprisingly Down to Earth, and Very Funny

Heroes @ The Hive

Joz Norris Is Dead. Long Live Mr Fruit Salad.


Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now



The Blurb

Following a series of failures at music festivals, a Bulgarian musician faces a midlife crisis. Is his lifelong love affair with his instrument – the gadulka, about to be challenged by the arrival of a mysterious girl? Will his crippling shyness destroy any relationship before it can begin? Where do pandas come into the dilemma? Miro Kokenov takes us on a comic journey of doubt, sarcasm and the wonders of nature. 'A worthwhile experience' **** ( ‘Consuming and purifying’ ***** (

Most Popular See More

Mamma Mia!

From £15.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £12.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Mousetrap

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets