Staġun Teatru Malti with new play

Chris Spiteri and Marceline Galea. Right: young actress Geordie Schembri.

Chris Spiteri and Marceline Galea. Right: young actress Geordie Schembri.

Jiena Nħobb, Inti Tħobb (JNIT) and Ħabbilni Ħa Nirbaħ (ĦĦN) were among the most successful original plays presented by Staġun Teatru Malti at the Manoel Theatre in the last nine years.

JNIT holds the theatre’s record in sales for an original Maltese play, reaching 98 per cent of available seats over all performances. ĦĦN is not far from that record with 84 per cent of the total capacity filled. Both plays were written by Simon Bartolo.

Staġun Teatru Malti is credited with re-introducing Maltese productions at the Manoel Theatre with accomplished, seasoned and often controversial new and original plays in Maltese

This season’s fare continues the tradition of theatrical excellence with the support of the island’s best talent and their steadfast commitment to polished, original content, mirroring the Maltese experience.

STM will be presenting two plays at the Manoel Theatre this season, the first being Bartolo’s new work. The title itself sets us up to expect the usual in-your-face, controversial content; unafraid, uninhibited and irreverent.

Missierna Li X’aktarx Inti Fis-Smewwiet (Our Father, Who Very Well Might Be In Heaven) is a drama ripped from the Maltese headlines and transformed into a fictional theatrical world where Maltese values, traditions and mores are thrown under a spotlight, challenging the audience to, perhaps, rethink and re-evaluate perceptions about love, sex, marriage and – most particularly in this play – “casual character assassination”.

A father of a 14-year-old girl is wrongly accused of inappropriate behaviour and, before a word is said in his defence, his world collapses, as family, friends and colleagues disassociate themselves from him, abandoning him to the ridicule and swift condemnation of merciless media pundits.

As walls of respectability crumble, many others fall victim to revenge postings until the fabric of truth unravels in myriad half truths, outright lies and damnable misinterpretation. It is Bartolo who can weave this horrific social mess into a coherent, often times funny, entertainment piece for a mature and open-minded audience.

Theatre in Malta remains the best outlet for artistic analytic social discourse and Bartolo is not shy of lumping it all, in an unabashed and unforgiving script. The play is for an adult audience.

Playing the lead is Chris Spiteri, one of Malta’s leading talent and one of Staġun Teatru Malti’s recurring artists.

“Simon’s scripts tend to draw you in with their soft openings and hilarious banter, and I am very comfortable with that. Comedy is no stranger to me,” Spiteri explained.

“But, very soon in the play, there are moments which take you for a different kind of experience and suddenly you’re in the middle of a catastrophe, neck deep in a edge-of-the-seat drama, full of tension and nail-biting situations.

“I love this duality. It is challenging for any actor and very worthwhile. You’re cracking a hilarious joke in one cue and you’re in a tragedy in the next. I have seen Bartolo’s other two plays but this will be my very first experience acting in a production he scripted. I hope it will not be the last”.

Co-starring with him are 12 other actors, including Marceline Galea, playing his wife. “She has some deep-rooted angst to deal with. Simon’s script does not dally with long introductions. The curtain is up and within a couple of minutes we are deep into a situation that you know can only get worse. It is great entertainment worth every penny,” Galea says.

Part of the cast is 14-year-old Geordie Schembri, a veteran of Maltese TV soap operas debuting at the Manoel theatre.

“Here is an actress we will be seeing a lot of,” says director Simon Curmi. “Her enthusiasm, dedication and dicipline are exemplary in one so young. It’s a pleasure working with her on this very touchy and controversial work. Being a minor, we are making sure she receives all support and mentoring during rehearsals. Her parents are always present.”

“This is so exciting,” chimed in Geordie. “The company is great to work with and everybody is so nice. I am looking forward to opening night but at the same time it’s scary. The Manoel Theatre!”

The play runs between February 15 and 18, including a matinee performance on Sunday. Booking is open at the Manoel theatre or online.

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