Until this year I’ve got away with watching the final presentation at the Children’s Theatre School in Shiroka Luka without understanding anything at all. Elena Panayotova’s narration in Bulgarian has whizzed through my brain without depositing a single iota of information, and I’ve been able to enjoy the costumes, dancing, puppetry and other forms of theatrical wizardry, undisturbed by knowledge.
Not so this year. On our arrival in Shiroka Luka, we foreigners were handed a ten-page story, in excellent English, and encouraged, indeed commanded, to absorb the plot before Saturday’s performance.
Young, rich, eligible bachelor king Nal is unexcited by the local girls.
But, so famous is he, that a distant princess, Damayanti, falls in love with the idea of him before she’s even seen him.
In due course Nal hears about Damayanti from his soldiers (apparently whilst dancing), and he falls in love with her, again, sight unseen.
Pining by the shore of a lake in the palace garden, sometime later, Nal sees seven beautiful swans and can’t resist grabbing one.
The swan begs to be freed. In return she will fly to Damayanti and tell her of Nal’s love. Which she does.
Then, Damayanti’s father, the king, noting her new-found happiness, decides it’s time she got married. He invites all known nobles to present themselves, assuming that the man Damayanti loves will be one of them.
Indeed, Nal sets off to make his case, but along the way he meets four Gods (Indra, Varuna, Agni and Yama) who are also bent on winning Damayanti’s hand. They demand that Nal should be their messenger and that Damayanti should choose one of them.
Reluctantly he does as they command, and rapturous as Nal and Dmayanti are at meeting each other, he explains that she must marry one of the Gods. Damayanti refuses and promises that when the Gods present themselves she will choose Nal.
And that’s all I’ve got time for today.