Theatre Trips

An Inside Look: Balaklava Blues + Counting Sheep

This weekend, Theatre Trip was lucky enough to get to go to London’s VAULT Festival, and we will be sharing our experiences there through three different blog posts. We kicked things off by checking out Counting Sheep and Balaklava Blues – which were together a huge highlight of our weekend!

* We highly recommend Balaklava Blues Counting Sheep, so we are awarding them a ⭐ !

Location: London, England

Our Experience at Counting Sheep: Staging a Revolution

Counting Sheep is an immersive and important piece of theatre that’s based on Mark and Marichka Marczyk’s love story and first-hand experience of the 2014 Kiev Uprising. Mark and Marichka also play a huge role in the production itself. They’re writers, creators, musicians, and actors. But they don’t play themselves in the show. Two of the other amazing cast members are the ones to tell their story.

Upon entering the theatre, the audience takes a seat surrounding a long table. Some audience members sit at the table, some sit around the table, and some sit up in the stalls. If you’re sitting in the stalls – you’re an “observer” – viewing the action from above. And if you sit at or around the table, you’re a “protester” – taking part in the action itself. And we were of course protesters.

The play starts out seemingly joyful. There’s Borscht soup, snacks, liquor, dancing, and live music. We dance around the table and listen to stories while we dine. We build up a relationship to the cast before being thrown into the action – which was a beautiful decision.

But a flash of breaking news soon interrupts the dancing. And from this point on, we are a part of the revolution. We lift signs in the air, we wear helmets, and we chant. Things escalate. We help build a barricade. We’re given riot shields, we’re covered with blankets when it’s time to rest, and we’re dropped directly into the uprising.

An active revolution - a production still from Counting Sheep.
Photo by Nicolai Khalezin

I can’t give away more than that because this is an experience that’s best, well … experienced. But if Counting Sheep is ever anywhere near where you are – I would strongly recommend checking them out. And make sure to sign up as a protester.

Our Experience Seeing Balaklava Blues: The Award-Winning Duo 

After Counting Sheep, we decided to check out Balaklava Blues, which is Mark and Marichka Marczyk’s live ethno-bass set. We were already excited after seeing the show because the music in Counting Sheep was exceptional. And this couple did not disappoint.

Mark and Marichka have it all – talent, magic, and a captivating story. There’s a spark between these two that’s undeniable. After the show, they were crowded with new fans who gushed about their music. And as a special surprise for our readers – here’s an exclusive interview with Mark and Marichka!

Theatre Trip’s Interview with Mark and Marichka Marczyk

Theatre Trip:  First of all, I have to say that the two of you have something special. You have mad charisma, impressive levels of talent, an amazing story, and you are both so damn likeable! Please keep going even if times get tough. And never lose that bass drum!

Mark: Thanks for your support! We will keep on keeping on!

Theatre Trip: So when did you first discover your ability to make great music together?

Marichka: We didn’t know that we could sing together back when we met in 2014. We were busy on a revolution, and it wasn’t until six months after we met that we found out that our voices are very strong together. And when we decided to put our lives together, we discovered that our power would be at least twice as strong if we make music together.

Mark: I had already gone back to Canada after the peak of the revolution and decided to return to tour across the country with a project dedicated to expressing and exploring the effects of the revolution through music and writing. It was called Lemonchiki Project and it was created by the two of us on a whim as we were trying to figure out what to do next. I returned to Ukraine with a Mexican, a Breton, and a Quebecer, and we started to put together a repertoire of songs of protest from around the world. In from of a 3rd floor window in our Kiev apartment we first heard our voices fly together in the steam of two cups of tea cooling on the table.

“My only advice is to not be afraid of anything. To believe on your own power and keep telling your truth.” – Marichka Marczyk

Theatre Trip: What’s your favorite thing about working on projects together as a couple?

Mark: That the music is a direct expression of our lives together. That there is often no boundary between what we are thinking or feeling or arguing about and what we present to an audience. That it sometimes feels like we are still in that Kiev apartment sipping tea and discovering each other’s voices, even when we’re in front of hundreds of people.

Marichka: My favorite thing about working with Mark is the power. I feel like we can change the world together. Of course, we sometimes have different visions on things. But it’s our creative process. And we always find a strong compromise of what usually works.

Mark and Marichka Marczyk from Balaklava Blues seated in front of a piano.

Theatre Trip: And what has been the biggest challenge about working together?

Mark: Well, like all couples, we fight occasionally. It is inevitable and human and beautiful to be able to overcome every argument with communication, patience, understanding, and love. But f*ck— when we’re in the heat of it and need to perform, it’s not the most pleasant thing in the world.

Marichka: And when we see a reaction of audience or when we get a successful review, it inspires us to keep doing what we are doing.

“Do it. Make it because you have to. Don’t be afraid of risk. Embrace change. Own what you have created and create space for others to own it too.” – Mark Marczyk

Theatre Trip: How has Counting Sheep changed or evolved since the first show in 2015?

Marichka: In 2015 we just came back from Eastern Ukraine and decide to write a play about a revolution. We wrote a big script and started to rehearse with Mark’s band, The Lemon Bucket Orkestra. But then we realized that the best way to tell this story is through the music. Because we are musicians. So it was a folk opera with documentary video and food. The first shows were just for 30 audience members. We continued to grow, and after a big success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, we brought Counting Sheep to Germany, Ireland, England, and the US.

Mark: It was at heart a community project when it started. We literally approached everyone we knew to help us tell the story and it was very moving to see how many people were willing to contribute in ways big and small so that we could realize this dream and raise money for humanitarian aid to war-torn Ukraine.

It grew consistently since then. We toured the world with The Lemon Bucket Orkestra as a text-less guerrilla folk opera and won many awards and accolades. Then we met Nikolai and Natalia from Belarus Free Theatre➝ and immediately found in them kindred creative and political spirits. They really pushed us to tell our personal story and to evolve the music while bringing a greater physicality and stylized theatricality to the work— VAULT Festival is the “premiere” of this version of Counting Sheep.

Marichka: The version that we’re now presenting in London is absolutely different. It’s a totally new show. This is a story about the revolution of dignity, but based on our personal love story. It’s written by Mark in English. With other actors playing us.

Theatre Trip: Do you have any advice for those who would also like to create/produce theatre based on their own unique life experiences?

Marichka: My only advice is to not be afraid of anything. To believe on your own power and keep telling your truth.

Mark: Do it. Make it because you have to. Don’t be afraid of risk. Embrace change. Own what you have created and create space for others to own it too. Don’t underestimate empathy, but also don’t expect it. Which brings me back to making it because you have to.

Theatre Trip: What’s next for the two of you?

Marichka: We’ve just started our way together and we’ll never stop inspiring each other. We have lots of plans. To write a new music for Balaklava Blues, to make a new show, and to keep moving forward.

Mark: We’re at VAULT Festival until March 18 with both Counting Sheep and Balaklava Blues. All our energy is on this story for now.

But I will say that we’ve also been long-listed for the coveted APRIZE for best Ukrainian album. We’re very excited about this, because we’re the only artists based in Canada and the only ones whose work is entirely inspired by and dedicated to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

After that— we’re planning to be in Europe this summer with Balaklava Blues and Lemon Bucket. Stay tuned.

Have you experienced Counting Sheep or Balaklava Blues? 

We’d love to hear your own thoughts and reactions in the comments below! And in the meantime, you can always check out our blog post archive of past theatre visits for some insight on what’s going on in theaters around the world!

Learn More:

Balaklava Blues➝

VAULT Festival➝

* This post’s featured image is by Nicolai Khalezin.

* Special thanks to VAULT Festival, Counting Sheep & Balaklava Blues for inviting us to the shows!

Want a weekly list of stagey surprises?!

Sign up for Theatre Thursday.

Stacy Karyn, Author of Balaklava Blues Review.
Author: Stacy Karyn

Stacy Karyn is the founder of Theatre Trip, author of The Thespian’s Bucket List, and creator of The Cast Album List. She holds a BA in theatre, a TESOL drama certificate, and has worked and interned with Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters.


Leave a Reply

Skip to content