We have the X Factor

Trip Start Jul 22, 2013
Trip End Aug 03, 2013

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Flag of Bulgaria  , Montana,
Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Today began with a certain amount of trepidation among our young HOP residents. The talent show set for the evening was casing not a few worried looks and furrowed brows as each team, led by their respective mentors, turned their thoughts into solid ideas for the show. It was not uncommon to hear "I don't have any talent, what can I do?" coming from the lips of the young people. The mentors coached and encouraged however, and the ideas began to take shape…

The UK team returned to the youth prison in the morning as usual for two hours of training and games on the rough, although undoubtedly once nice, weed strewn pitch. Penalty practice is a special chore for the ball retrievers; no nets and long sharp leaved weeds makes for a fun 20mins scampering after balls both perfect placed and blasted high and mightily wide. The games are always rate highly for competition, middling for skill (unless Rich P is playing, which will always lower the average standard of any game) and rather low for teamwork- a difficult concept for many of the inmates to put into practice. Not surprisingly then it’s not often that the UK team loses a game; working together in an organised manner will usually trump individual ability. Most of the short 15 min games are tight, only a goal or two in it. The best was a six goal thriller with honours even between the UK “greens” and the “prison yellows”. It should have been 3-2 but the ref failed to see a blatant hand ball from the yellow striker in the last minute; not that this writer is bitter about it mind.

Before the evening meal the hotel was full of groups huddled in corners going over their acts for the evening. Spies from other teams were chased away, lines fretted over, instruments practised, dance choreographed and jokes rehearsed. By the time 8pm arrived everyone was eager to get started. This is Bulgaria so at 8:24 precisely our MC for the evening, Christo (manager of the protected home in Gabrovo) got things going by introducing the judges and then the first act, which turned out to be the aforementioned judges performing Abba’s “Mama Mia”. Then it was time for the HOP young people to take centre stage:

Team one performed a traditional Bulgarian story that takes the form of a dance. This fair near brought the house down thanks to a set malfunction. Ellie, Tsetsi, Krasi and Stefan told us how the boy got the girl, setting a very high bar for everybody. Strange how Veneta (house parent at the House of Joshua, our first ever HOP) was able to source such brilliant costumes at short notice…

There then followed a hard-hitting drama for team two. Drug dealers, sharpshooting cops, lawyers and judges all featured, with Bobi making a particularly fine policeman. A career beckons perhaps?

Team three, who declared they had no talent at all, performed a well-old shaggy dog story that went on for some time before leaving the audience hanging and which featured a nicely hammed up death from Rumen.

Lastly we were treated to a sketch from team four that can only be described as the Bulgarian equivalent of the Jeremy Kyle Show (so I’m told, never seen it myself obviously). Chaotic, out of control, loud, ridiculous; just like the real thing then!

While the voting took place we were treated to Chris Bishop and Rob Aston performing a selection of classic rock songs on the acoustic guitar and bongos. I say treated; bothered may be more appropriate. Not really, they were great of course. Mostly.

The judges deliberated, the MC filled with a rather odd “dad dance”, much to the embarrassment of his daughter, Mirele and we had jokes from Sevko and Rich P. Despite this the audience stuck it out and the judges returned to announce the winners who were…

… Team one with their brilliant dance!

It really was a fantastic evening and proof that everyone has a talent or something and that by working together, you can achieve far more that you could on your own…

There will be some video eventually but for now the pics will have to do.
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