The Brief Life & Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria


  • Pleasance Dome - QueenDome
  • 17:20
  • Aug 28
  • 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Suitability: 12+ (Guideline)
  • Country: United Kingdom - England
  • Group: Out Of The Forest Theatre
  • Warnings and additional info: This show contains strong language and references to war and antisemitism.
  • Accessibility:
    Audio enhancement system
    Wheelchair Accessible Toilets
    May not apply to all performances. You'll find more information about accessibile performances and how to book tickets in the accessibility tab below.
  • Babes in arms policy: Babies do not require a ticket
  • Policy applies to: Children under 2 years


Bulgaria just told Hitler to f*ck off, saved nearly 50,000 Jewish lives... and lost a King. 'Whether a jazz fan, a history buff or just someone who loves gripping real-life stories, this is a must see.' (Kyril, Prince of Preslav, Boris III's Grandson). A camel. A fox. A difficult choice. Meet the men who could've done more, the women who did the most, and the reasons the world forgot them. Five-star award-winning ensemble blending history and live folk tunes.

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General venue access

  • Audio enhancement system
    Wheelchair Accessible Toilets
  • Accessible entry: Main queue inside Dome at left of building. 5 steps up to the space or Level access to left of venue — ask staff for assistance.
  • Wheelchair access type: Level Access

  • Stairs: 2 - 5
    Number of stairs is provided as guidance and is not in addition to any wheelchair access type (lift/ramp etc) stated above.

Each venue can contain several space with different accessibly information. Visit the venue page for full venue accessibility info

Captioned performances

  • Dates: 16 August
  • Type: Open
  • Booking options: You can book independently online, or contact our access team to book your tickets and request any specific seating locations or if booking a unit is required.

How and when to make an access booking

Our access tickets service is available to anyone who:

  • Would like to book specific accessibility services, e.g. a hearing loop, audio description headsets, captioning units, seating in relation to the location of the BSL interpreter
  • Requires extra assistance when at a venue
  • Has specific seating requirements
  • Is a wheelchair user
  • Requires a complimentary personal assistant ticket to attend a performance

Samantha Vaughan 96 days ago

Loved the pace and humour throughout the piece. Such an interesting story that deserves a spotlight. Definitely recommend and look forward to seeing where it goes next

Sean Davis 97 days ago

Brief Life & Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria (****)
In 1943, the king of unoccupied Bulgaria had to capitulate to Nazi pressure to deport its Jews to concentration camps in Poland. Interspersed with songs, the show portrays the efforts of the humane king to minimize, but not stop the killing of Jews. The character of the king is beautifully portrayed as good man placed in an untenable situation forced to appear antisemitic, however the actor playing his prime minister yells constantly in an ill-considered attempt to lampoon Hitler.

This is the 28th most enjoyable of the 184 shows I have seen so far at the Fringe this year. I hope to see almost 200. You may see my other three-sentence reviews, in order from most enjoyable to worst, at my non-commercial website:

Jonathan Smith 97 days ago

The Brief Life & Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria covers a fascinating and obscure aspect of the Second World War in a wonderfully entertaining and inventive way. As well as conventional narrative, based on the actor playing the king, the other performers provide vivid colour by playing a range of characters and instruments, accompanied by singing of what seem to be Bulgarian folk songs. There was plenty of comedy in the early stages, followed by darkness after the well meaning king made a bad decision. Although aspects of the plot and characters were difficult to follow, I was swept away from the start of what proved to be the highlight of the 30 shows I saw at the Fringe this year. Some performances were sold out, but tickets were potentially released an hour, 30 minutes and 15 minutes before the event.

Mark Mesarch 99 days ago

Two days and 14 shows so far and this has by far been the top show and I huge hidden gem. I thought it was well crafted and imaginative for such a sensitive subject that we hardly have heard about. Humorous at times but the company had the audience on the edge of their seats and you hear a pin drop so many times. The only problem I had was one of the characters ( the insider character) I was confused several times who they were. I highly recommend and may go again.

Leonard Bacica 101 days ago

This is a very camp retelling of how the Holocaust came about in Bulgaria during World War II, with songs and everything. And guess what? It works! The show is funny and hugely entertaining, but somehow it manages to keep your eyes on the ball at all times: the subject matter is a very serious one, and the company never makes light of it. We get all of the history, we understand the emotions and motivations of the characters, all of them being caught in extraordinary circumstances, and at the center of them all, Tsar Boris, who answered the call of history and got killed for it (no spoiler guys, it's in the title). Yes, maybe the image of Boris III is a tad brushed up, and we cannot really know the inner motivations of the character, but even so, we're not looking at unidimensional cardboard cutouts here: everyone has their shades of grey, everyone is slave to motivations and betrayals. Great story, beautifully told.

Linda Chanut 101 days ago

Fascinating, mostly unknown part of history performed by an excellent and versatile cast. Standing ovation was well deserved. Bravo!

Bill 102 days ago

Excellent show. Entertaining, informative, moving, superbly written and performed. Highly recommended.

Toni Kolev 102 days ago

Incredible show! The show was outstanding.
So well-written and presented! History was retold in a contemporary way, presenting in such unique way the challenges faced by the King Boris the third of our small country Bulgaria!Funny and at the same Sad. As a Bulgarian the story made me very emotional. Even before watching the show,I have asked myself the question,what would have happened to us Bulgarians if our king Boris has not died? Singing Bulgarian national anthem without accent was amazing to hear! Huge thank you and Bravo to the Out of Forest Theatre

Michael Colao 103 days ago

This is that rarest of all things, an important show. Absolutely riveting. Filled with pathos, and horror, and humour. History is written by the winners, and this tells the tale of one of history's losers (the clue is rather in the title). So this is untold and unsung history, but is well worth the telling. Get a ticket. You will enjoy the show immensely, and walk out with your thoughts provoked. Cannot recommend highly enough.

John Dewhurst 103 days ago

Like most other reviewers, I knew nothing of the story of Boris the Third. This play reflects the difficulties faced by a country surrounded by larger warring nations. The 5 excellent actors presented the story with humour and pathos using music, folk and popular songs as well as interesting storytelling.

David Evans-Powell 104 days ago

Sharp, funny, witty, clever, angry, brilliant piece of theatre that shines a light onto a part of history most of us will never have known. Made me laugh, made me think, made me angry. Exactly what theatre should do.

Wendy Bond 104 days ago

“Horrible Histories” style of writing history with humour and a story that revealed my ignorance of Boris’s role in saving the lives of 50,000 Bulgarian Jews. Such stories should be revealed and repeated by whatever means. Long live Bulgaria, ruled in the past by Ottomans, Nazis and Soviets. Brilliantly portrayed by this company of excellent actors.

Belobokov 104 days ago

Excellent from so many points of view. Who'd have thought such a riveting show could be made of this obscure (apologies, Sofia) piece of history? Or such a watchable show from such a serious subject? How do I find more shows like this?

Julia K 104 days ago

Loved the music in this. Great story that we don't know much about. Also managed to get effective humour into an essentially tragic and moving tale.

Sanna&Anders 104 days ago

Well written and acted - definitely worth a watch! They managed to make the serious subject matter entertaining while still being respectful.

Karen W 105 days ago

This play definitely lives up to the expectations - having read several reviews about it.
It's fast paced with a well-written, funny script. Fave show of the Fringe so far.

My only quibble was that it started late, which meant that we had to rush to get to our next show.

Jonathan 108 days ago

I really enjoyed this show. Collaborationist regimes are painted with a very broad brush in British history textbooks (I'm a History teacher, so I should know). I didn't just leave more informed. I left more willing to think about the struggles and nuances of leading a non-global power in a world at war.

I think this makes a really excellent complement to the classic pre-WW2 film, 'La Grande Illusion'. Boris is, fundamentally, a king in a world that doesn't need kingship. He is a monarch in a world divided between democrats and autocrats, but done with aristocrats. He cannot 'do the right thing', he can only delay the inevitable.

Susie Hicks 109 days ago

It seemed a bit odd to treat such a serious subject with humour, but rather like “Doctor Strangelove” it would be hard to take in such a story as a purely historical exposition. As it was the humour underlined the subject matter brilliantly. We left thinking this was one of the best shows we’ve seen at the fringe this or any other year

William (Billy) Weems 110 days ago

Go see this show! Excellent!

Randal Richmond 111 days ago

Absolutely brilliant. Immensely talented cast have crafted a humorous, intelligent, complex story of a small but (especially for those directly impacted) piece of WWII history. Blending comedy, music, and an immensely conflicted but likeable Boris they weave the story of a man with good intentions thrust into an impossible situation. Highly recommended.

Jennifer Watson 112 days ago

My personal favourite this year, superbly written and performed and also informative!

R & C 112 days ago

Loved this show. Only our second day at the Fringe but this may well turn out to be the best this year. It might well be a complicated story with horrifyingly dark undertones but it is told with clarity and humour and vast amounts of energy. It is one of those stories you immediately want to know more about and that is always a sign of a great show. Five excellent actors (and musicians) with loads of talent. So professional.

Snap Judgement 112 days ago

★★★★★ Go NOW, thank later!

A story of a perfectly imperfect Boris.

* Masterfully Written. A brilliant balance between intensity and humour that makes learning history delightful.
* Comedic Genius. Serious topics like fascism made funny.
* Live Accompaniment. An evocative soundscape that carries the weight of WWII on the shoulders of comedy.

* Pace Inconsistency. Some scenes, notably with the Jewish musician, lacked the consistent momentum enjoyed elsewhere.

My Instagram for more reviews like this:

Julie Phillips 112 days ago

This was so good. Funny and entertaining. Well worth a visit

Margaret 112 days ago

Very well acted and written. Complexities of this part of history in WW2 were very well crafted for the audience to understand. Recommend to any history or theatre lover!

Elena 113 days ago

Absolutely extraordinary show that I even saw it twice! It is incredible writing and the performances produced are fantastic. Would 100% recommend and would watch over and over again if I could. :)

Charlotte Walker 113 days ago

A fascinating piece of forgotten history beautifully told with just the right balance of humour and drama. As all good theatre should it makes you laugh and it makes you think. A real highlight of this year's Fringe.

Rachael McGill 113 days ago

Really enjoyable, funny and thought-provoking show, wonderful acting and musicianship. The plot could have done with a bit more development/intrigue (maybe it was trying to stick too closely to what is historically known) but the execution was flawless.

PT 114 days ago

My favourite production at this year's fringe. It walks a tight line between humour and tragedy and does it brilliantly. Wonderful cast, script and concept - and I learnt a great deal about a part of World War II that I previously knew nothing about. Definitely one to watch!

The Unusual Suspects 115 days ago

Perhaps uncommonly for the intended audience, we had long heard about Boris III, and from someone who knew him well. The story that is told here is faithful to all that we understood regarding Bulgaria's refusal to deport its Jewish citizens during World War II. The play does an extraordinary job of revealing the complex forces at work while keeping the audience riveted. The small cast is immensely talented, both as actors and musicians, playing a varied, beautiful, and at times moving set of numbers. Highly recommended!

Maria 115 days ago

This has been the absolute highlight of my Fringe so far. I went because my partner is Bulgarian and I have an interest in WW2 history. I didn't expect to be so wildly entertained and swept with emotions! I'm impressed by the amount of research they did for the play. Highly recommended and I will want to see every show they put on in the future. The performers have immense amount of talent and professionalism.

James Gordon 115 days ago

Five very talented performers, four of them playing multiple roles and musical instruments too, tread a fine line between comedy and tragedy, mining humour, more or less black as appropriate, from likely and unlikely details of a complex and little-known story populated by a flawed hero, flawed villains, flawed victims and all manner of jobsworths. Who can blame them for a dig or two at similar characters closer to home, sometimes similarly named, along the way?

Holly Ellis 116 days ago

An absolutely stunning show blending detailed historical storytelling with humour and harmonies. I laughed and was sucker punched with emotions.

Participants - for further details on our audience and published review policies, including how to add or opt out of reviews, please click here. (4/5 stars) 92 days ago

pantomimic blend of storytelling, evocative music, neatly interspersed with hard hitting historical facts

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Fringe Review 98 days ago

Out Of The Forest Theatre have delivered a stylish, hugely entertaining, poignant winner here at Edinburgh

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Darkchat (4/5 stars) 101 days ago

Get yourself over to Pleasance Dome during the Fringe so you can get in on the ground and say you saw it before it was massive.

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ThreeWeeks (5/5 stars) 103 days ago

It’s an all-singing, all-dancing joy.

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Theatre Weekly (4/5 stars) 105 days ago

The Brief Life & Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria brings us a fascinating story and does so in an innovative way.

Read the full review (4.5/5 stars) 107 days ago

A first rate piece of theatre.

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Plays International & Europe 109 days ago

The play is a well crafted and thought-provoking essay on leadership.

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West End Best Friend (5/5 stars) 110 days ago

An entertaining piece of theatre that leaves your mind and soul enriched!

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Brig Newspaper (5/5 stars) 111 days ago

everything a piece of theatre should be

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Culture Fix (4/5 stars) 113 days ago

Told with an insightful, fast-paced energy and character, this Out Of The Forest production is a sheer delight.

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North West End UK (4/5 stars) 113 days ago

If you are at Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year, then look no further than this play, you will not be disappointed!

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Participants - for further details on our audience and published review policies, including how to add or opt out of reviews, please click here.

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Participants - for further details on our audience and published review policies, including how to add or opt out of reviews, please click here.