Director Tedi Moskov:
Theatre is shared love
I hang on to the illusion that I help create a team of likeminded people
11 May, 2018
Close-up: Stefan “Tedi” Moskov was born on 7 October 1960 in Sofia. He earned a degree in puppet theatre directing in 1985 and went on to study drama theatre directing at the Accademia nazionale d'arte drammatica in Rome in 1992. He is the creator of the 1990s cult La Strada Theatre and the TV show The Street, which won the Rose d'Or critics' award at the 1996 Golden Rose Montreux Festival. Among his most famous productions of late are Cyrano de Bergerac, Macbeth, Richard III, The Not-quite-understood Civilisation, Professional Lier, The Outlook of a Stump, The Way You Want Me, etc. He has put on plays in numerous prestigious theatres in Germany - in Hamburg, Stuttgart, and Darmstadt. He is the creator of the feature film Rhapsody in White and the documentary The Translator of Black-and-White Films.
- Mr Moskov, your return to theatre with the production Rare Nitwits has elevated you to the status of the best comedy director. Has your brand of humour changed after a nearly two-year absence from the stage?
- My sense of humour has changed over the years just like the optical power of my eyeglasses - it increased and slightly distorted my vision. Comedy has always been a part of me; my mother even says that I was born smiling. So I intend to keep making funny shows, even though some of my more dignified colleagues hint that I ought to have some shame and “grow up”. I would like to thank the Satirical Theatre for the recognition, which I see as an invitation to continue my work. I also see it as a sort of “banishment” to the land of comedy. The “unfunny” theatre critics are sending me there, saying: “Do not concern yourself with the deep stuff, leave those to us, the 'deep-divers'. They equate funny with 'shallow'. But when the water is centimetre or two deep and murky, I can easily create the illusion of walking on water. By the look of them, I think they are ready to take the bait. Some even already did, and praised me.”
- Are the Italian nitwits, inspired by Mario Monicelli's film I soliti ignoti (Unknown Perpetrators), not actually e depiction of Bulgarian losers in your treatment of the work?
- These unlucky, never-do-well people have no nationality, age or gender. He, she, or it, are an international character who can be found anywhere on this planet. If, by any chance, aliens have already landed on Earth, I am sure they are some kind of losers too. I mean, has any kind of alien done anything famous yet? Not one! What a fate! I thought that what I did in this production was not strictly about Bulgarian national traits. I am sorry if you find these, it was not done on purpose! Neither was I interested in the juicy details of our modern life. I simply enjoyed working with playwright Moni Schwartz on the text and my collaboration with the actors - I think it shines through. The true value of this production is in the pleasure artists feel in performing it. Nothing more! The play will last as long as that satisfaction is there and will make people come and watch it several times. It is already having that effect. It also makes some viewers stand and leave in the middle of the show (if we are to be completely honest).
- How come, despite all the bright European perspectives, we seem to have a worse quality of life, to be more depressed and pessimistic?
- The European perspectives have nothing to do with our depression and pessimism. I am hesitant to equate European future with the kind of “bright future” that used to be promised to us every five years some 50 years ago. To my mind, pessimism and the negative way we treat each other has always been a strange comfort zone for Bulgarians, who have always occupied it with ease and even gusto over a glass of rakia, complaining and badmouthing everyone else. This is just the way we are - whatever happens, we rush to find the drawbacks.
- Sometimes it seems that you are taking an increasingly gloomier view of the Bulgarian mindset in your plays as the years go by. Is this true and what makes you indignant?
- Our model is not so much Bulgarian as it is post-communist. I am neither indignant over, nor disgusted by it; I am simply fed up with it.
- What illusion are you unwilling to let go of as a person and an artist? What still brings you hope in the world around us?
- If you have recognised that something is an illusion, you are no longer under its influence. I actually love this type of voluntary self-deception. As Bertolt Brecht once said, asked about his future plans: “I am very busy; I am preparing my next delusion.” I clutch the illusion that I am creating a team of likeminded people for each show, and that we are brought together by a cause, not paid work. I keep hold of this illusion even in Germany, where salary is above everything.
- Some actors worship you and others are afraid of your hot temper. Do the latter have reason to be so?
- No one worships me - some actors simply enjoy working with me. Others dislike me. Sometimes it is mutual. The important thing is that over the course of working together we find something that is worth overcoming these feelings of resentment. It is the director's responsibility to find this thing. It is a challenging process - a struggle with your own nature and that of others.
- Is there an actor you regret not having had the chance to work with over the years, or one with whom you had a good creative relationship and lost it? Do you have a clear favourite?
- I have no regrets about anyone or anything. I will not even talk about the idea of a “clear favourite” - theatre is the product of collective work. A group sharing of love!
- Your son Ivan is also a director. Do you envision doing something together?
- We already worked on something together - the multimedia in Pirandello's The Way You Want Me, put on the stage of the National Theatre. Ivan even won an award for his collaboration with Chavdar Gyuzelev on the visual concept of the show. We often use each other as sounding boards but, thankfully, we are very different. He has a better eye for visuals than me.
- What made you laugh most recently? What are your work plans, serious or funny, for the near future?
- Sometimes I cry tears of laughter at old films, like The Pink Panther starring Peter Sellers. I cannot say that this is the best comedy I have seen, but some moments have me rolling with laughter. What is next for me? As I am an impulsive and fickle person, I have no idea! Actually, I know, but I am not going to share because there are plenty of people who would love to sabotage me. Besides, everything might have changed by the time this interview comes out.