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Hilarious haunted hill

Spazju Kreattiv revisits Valletta’s history from the cynical perspective of an invader who never left.

Joseph Galea as Dragut. Photos: Sonia Bonnici

Joseph Galea as Dragut. Photos: Sonia Bonnici

Theatre
Xagħret Mewwija
St James Cavalier

Xagħret Mewwija is back and is still a great crowd-pleaser in its shorter, revamped format. Trevor Zahra’s ribald look at events happening throughout the centuries brought together by their location – the hill of Xebb ir-Ras, which is based on a collection of sketches chronicling the history of Valletta from its inception to the 20th century.

Currently running at St James Cavalier and produced in conjunction with Spazju Kreattiv and Free Spirit Acting, with the support of V18, this shorter, snappier version from the one first premiered five years ago, is a great way of celebrating our capital city without taking itself too seriously.

Given its colourful and chequered history, the city lends itself well to narrative and this entertaining piece was made all the more interesting because it looked at historical events from the point of view of the underdog – with one of our most vilified invaders recounting the events – none other than Dragut himself.

Taking the form of a twisted history of Valletta, precisely because of the biased narrator, the performance was a well-balanced mix of more historically significant events, blended with generic occurrences and some great fictional imaginings of dialogue and interaction between famous historical figures. 

The bedroom discussion between Giloramo Cassar and his wife – played very ably by Charles Sammut and Rachel Farrugia. These two actors, along with the rest of the cast showed their skills in versatility and adaptability in playing multiple roles. The only cast member who interpreted one character throughout the performance was Joseph Galea’s excellent Dragut, who poked fun at the Maltese as a spirit bound to haunt the area around Valletta after his death, thereby experiencing all of its developments over the centuries since its inception. 

His often-caustic remarks tinged with regret at having fallen in love with a Maltese girl, highlighted many of the foibles of our people. His particular brand of quick-witted critical comedy was well-scripted by Zahra and delivered very effectively by Galea. 

An entertaining spin through history

The girl he once fell in love with, Suzanna, was played by Maria Farrugia and her mother (Rachel Micallef) was a typical caricature of an annoying Mediterranean mother-in-law.

I enjoyed Farrugia and Micallef’s wheedling and whingeing mother and daughter moments, as well as Farrugia’s very stubborn and traditional old lady having a go at her husband (Sammut). The scene concerning the first fire at the Opera House was interesting and benefitted from the faster pace given by directors Joseph Galea and Carlos Farrugia, with Sammut and Joe Pace portraying the two night-watchmen whose negligence brought about the destruction of the theatre in the late 19th century.

Joe Pace as Grand Master La Valette and Carlos Farrugia as Francesco Laparelli in Xagħret Mewwija.Joe Pace as Grand Master La Valette and Carlos Farrugia as Francesco Laparelli in Xagħret Mewwija.

I also enjoyed Farrugia’s Francesco Laparelli – the architect entrusted with the planning of Valletta as a model urban zone which contrasted in attitude with his portrayal of various grandmasters.

The scene poking fun at the clergy, between Pace as the Bishop and Sammut as his obsequious monsignor was cleverly and elegantly comedic and another highlight of the piece. 

What makes Xagħret Mewwijja truly enjoyable are the subtle jibes at contemporary events and decisions – from artistic and aesthetic choices to the winning of tenders and the way the country is run, which were satirised and cleverly poked fun at by exposing older historical examples of the same dubious choices.

With original music by Augusto Cardinali and lighting by Adrian D. Bartolo, the production was slick and well-conceptualised, with creative use of space and the seamless execution, which maintained the momentum from one scene to the next, only faltering towards the end with an original song which required a greater strength in its delivery.

Xagħret Mewwija is nonetheless an entertaining spin through history with a satirical bent, which delivers what it promises and more – certainly one to go to this weekend.

Xagħret Mewwija is being staged at St Cavalier today, tomorrow and on Sunday at 8pm.

Tickets may be obtained by phone on 2122 3200 or from www.kreattivita.org.

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