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All about the timing

Joe Azzopardi talks to Ramona Depares about his role in the upcoming comedy A Birthday Suit.

Joe Azzopardi, Tina Rizzo and Malcolm Galea. Photo: Frank Zammit

Joe Azzopardi, Tina Rizzo and Malcolm Galea. Photo: Frank Zammit

What can you tell us about your character in A Birthday Suit?

My character Nick basically spends the whole play in a place he does not want to be, just to make his girlfriend happy (which he fails at, miserably). He’s a light-minded individual who is an artist at heart but, like all artists, faces the sad reality that you just can’t make a living off your art. Which means that you have to resort to getting a job in something like finance. Not quite so riveting, but “that’s where the money is”.

How similar are you to your character?

Nick is exactly who I would be if I never found my calling in life. His mannerisms and quick wit are very similar to my own; the only thing that divides us is ambition. The will to go out and makes something of yourself. Nick is the type of person who will just sit around and hope that life will simply come to him, rather than putting a real effort by going out and seeking a path.

What was the biggest challenge translating this role to real life?

Honestly, my biggest challenge was trying to keep a straight face while watching Malcolm Galea’s facial expressions. We’re weeks into the rehearsal process and he still has me in stitches. It gets so bad that I’ll be clutching on to Tina Rizzo, who plays my girlfriend. When the laughing fit takes over, my whole body starts slowly vibrating, which in turn feeds her with laughter and starts this whole giggle-loop.

How are final rehearsals going?

The rehearsal process is going swimming­ly. We all had a very good idea of our characters from day one, so it’s mostly building timing and pace. Unfortunately, I’m also in the middle of shooting a feature film at the mo­ment so our rehearsal time is very limited.

What about your fellow cast members?

It’s my first time working with Tina and Larissa Bonaci. I did a play with Malcolm 10 years ago called Sex Comedies, but throughout the whole play we did not interact with each other. So they are all fresh, new acting faces for me. And the chemistry works very well.

Who will the play appeal to?

I think it will appeal to all sorts of age groups. From my character’s point of view, there is a good lesson to be learned about the shock of coming out of university, where you think the world is going to throw opportunities your way. It may prepare the younger audience for their inevitable reality check.

What is the best thing about the character you play?

His love for making situations awkward. I personally hate awkward situations when socialising, so it’s quite a treat to just land conversations bombshells through­out the play.

And do you dislike anything about him?

He’s a whiny little bitch who needs to pull his socks up and stop feeling sorry for himself.

What’s the most difficult thing about creating good comedy?

I don’t really find much difficulty when it comes to comedy. At drama school I was always told that in future I will land comic roles with great ease  because of my comic timing. Yet, since leaving drama school all I have done are dark, depressive roles that usually end up with tears at some point (referring back to that reality check).

Any past roles you’re particularly fond of?

Well, anytime I do Shakespeare at the Pub is always the most fun I ever have performing. It’s not so much about the role, more about the fact that the whole theatre in a pub setting is incredibly fun. Maybe it’s because they are the only people who will let me perform after a few whiskeys. But the film character I’m crafting at the moment is definitely a top one. It’s my first main role in a feature film, so the work I had to do with this character has been extensive. Plus, I’m the only actor in the whole film so it’s been a bit of a lesson on how to carry a film by yourself.

Any roles on your bucket list?

I suppose when I’m older I would love to give Titus from Titus Andronicus a go, or Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron from Jerusalem.

What’s next for Joe Azzopardi?

Now, I can’t really tell you that just in case anyone steals the idea. As Ridley Scott says, “ideas are currency in this market, so don’t discuss any future projects unless you have the rights or the funding”. But an adaptation of a Berkoff screenplay is a dream I’ve always had.

A Birthday Suit is being produced by Masquerade and runs from November 17 to 19 and 24 to 26 at Bluebox, MSpace, Msida. Tickets are available online.

www.bluebox.com.mt

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