This play was written on the spur of the moment. As part of
the background preparation for the write up of “Slyboots”, a
Commedia dell’Arte play, I was trying to master a certain western
Bulgarian dialect. It was a suitable choice for a vernacular
to be spoken by the three tricksters, the advocates of three
“different” political ideologies: rhubarb-rhubarb, blah-blah
and yada-yada. In the Commedia dell’Arte tradition, a local
dialect affords the perfect means of obscuring one’s motives
when the need arises.
This is how I came across the local saying of “as
a fly in a drum”. At that stage one could not have wished for
a better description to fit my own personal circumstances so
I experienced a creative boost amounting to nothing short of
an instant revelation. The play was virtually writing itself
and I was enjoying the process like I had never done before
or would ever do since.
The year was 1985. I had been fired from my job
and banned from work in the film industry altogether. I was
living in our old country house in a remote village. Friends
were getting freelance jobs for useless commercials and documentaries
for me to write under their names to help my family survive.
Self-proclaimed well-wishers were always at
pains to urge me to write whatever I felt like so long as it
had no bearing whatsoever on “Number One”, as the current eternal
“party king” Todor Zhivkov was referred to. Yet it would have
never done for a character, such as Guilyfart the Great, to
not take the pride of place in the weird world of “Fly in a
Drum”. There was no room for any independent media in communist
Bulgaria and it was up to the literary writing community to
perform to some extent their functions. It goes without saying
that this could only have happened through the Aesopian fable
approach. I will be the first to admit that the latter is only
as outspoken as a slave can afford to be, but any other attempt
at free expression would have been nipped in the bud under the
paranoid policies and practices of communist censorship.
In compliance with the publication rules
and regulations prevailing at the time, the completed manuscript
of “Fly in a Drum” had to be submitted for approval by the relevant
censorship body, known as the “Theatre Directorate”. The prospective
director Krikor Azaryan and I presented ourselves in front of
the panel to hear their verdict. We were told that the message
of “Fly in a Drum” had been obscured by the use of a non-literary
dialect and that the play should be re-written in the official
standard form of the Bulgarian language. Never mind that imposing
a wrong “cultured” register on a tale of nonsense would have
annihilated the very essence of its art.
Today, twenty years later, I remain a captive in the drum and
a captive of the allegory.