TM Programme Update AUG-DEC 2020 (EN)

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This update is being published whilst acknowledging that we are still in the midst of a global pandemic. With everything subject to change, it’s our duty to prioritize the safety of our artists and our audiences as we continue to programme and produce theatre.


WE’RE BACK (IL-ĦIDMA TKOMPLI) 2020 started out on a bright and exciting note for us at Teatru Malta. Just a week into January we launched XENI, a collaborative exhibition and project months in the making, running from January to February. The project celebrated the history of set building and making in Malta & Gozo over the course of the past ten years­—the first of its kind locally. The exhibition was held at Spazju Kreattiv and was curated by set designer Romualdo Moretti, along with a series of workshops and talks focusing on light design, set building and set painting. During this time we also launched our very first seasonal programme spanning from January to April 2020—the first of what should have been three season launches this year. The programme was very well-received and each production was well underway. The second programmed production following XENI was L-Interrogazzjoni, the intimate and passionately driven play written by celebrated playwright Alfred Buttigieg and directed by Lee-N


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Ellul, which we staged in a living room at a private residence. The show had a 14-day run, and was practically sold out throughout it. People flocked to the show, taking very well to the tantalising story of two passionate lovers and the innovative concept of staging theatre in someone’s home. Shortly after having wrapped L-Interrogazzjoni, we moved straight onto Trikki Trakki, the children’s festival that won us the Premju Għall-Arti for best project for children and teens this year. This was the last project we were able to successfully manage before the pandemic put a dead stop to everything. Schools gathered at M-Space for one week to successfully put together a show they had been working on for months. Who would have told us that just a week after closing off the festival we’d also be closing off our offices for three whole months? For the first time in the history of Teatru Malta, we faced the thought of having to cancel our productions—for our safety and, more importantly, our audience’s.


Unaware of how serious the situation was (as it was all still a developing scenario at the time) we tried our best to navigate through this grey area as practically as possible, without alarming our collaborators. In early March we were busy putting together the finishing touches on what should have been our World Theatre Day banquet—however, fate had different plans for us. It was only a matter of time till we grasped that we had no other option but to not only pull the plug on our World Theatre Day festivities, but on the rest of our upcoming season of events as a whole, including A Stroke of Bad Luck, which was intended to be staged in April. This would have been the second time we attempted to stage this play (which suffered its own bout of bad luck in 2019) so let’s hope that the third time really is the charm. For three months, we met on the daily over online conference calls, keeping in touch and up to date on all the latest Covid-19 updates and trying our best to stay as present as possible online, through social media. A number of initiatives were launched, our very first being Kwarta Kwarantina followed by our online World Theatre Day press conference, through which we launched Theatre Depożit and Teleteatru. For those weeks, we invested our time and energy into helping out artists and keeping our audiences entertained at home. Week after week

we streamed one of eight selected productions online, each of which was subtitled in Maltese or English to make sure that all audiences at home were able to enjoy the show. We also thought it would be fun to take photos of our desks at home and share them with you...

In conclusion, if you’re reading this, then you’ve probably been up to date with our socials, so you’ve definitely heard about what’s been keeping us occupied during quarantine—and no, it wasn’t making bread—as we were still busy thinking about making theatre. In any case, we’re just assuming here. So, assuming you need a refresher or an introduction, here’s a little summary of it all:

2020 Programme Update





garnered over 15,000 views with a total of 10 successful submissions.

24 applying artists stood to benefit from

whereby a total of 4 productions will be produced in the coming years, bringing work to over 110 artists and crew members in the industry, with a total of 20% of our annual production budget invested in this initiative.

was streamed on its one year anniversary in collaboration with PBS and Lovin Malta, who both shared the production stream on television and facebook respectively. As part of this one year anniversary special, and due to popular demand, together with The New Victorians we also launched the full VII Live Album on Spotify for all to enjoy.


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boasted a schedule of 8 productions streamed online weekly, garnering a total of 30,000 views on Facebook.

was one of our most successful social media campaigns, where we visited, photographed and interviewed 11 artists across Malta and Gozo, generating 8,000 likes on Facebook.

is a poetronica project that brought an extraordinary cast of over 50 actors together on film as part of a special project that we worked on in collaboration with the Malta International Arts Festival, where actors recited Oliver Friggieri’s 1989 cantata L-Għanja ta’ Malta one by one. Having premiered on the 23rd of June. the video has now garnered over 20,000 views on Facebook alone, and is now being shown as part of the APS Summer Festival throughout July and August.

IT’S BEEN A BUSY FEW MONTHS 2020 Programme Update


artistic director ’ s note


We had many plans for 2020, and so did everyone else. This year has changed the world and yadda yadda yadda. We were brought face to face with the most basic questions of life. What are we here for? What is it that we truly cherish? In the context of this programme update, COVID-19 put Teatru Malta in a situation where we had to reassess our daily priorities. We tried to use this much needed time to restore our chakras. In these pages, you will find some of the work we were up to and which we will


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follow up on soon. I thank our team and collaborators who have done their best to remain focused, hungry and excited albeit with curtains closed. We are a production-oriented national theatre company because we believe that it is primarily through the diversification and innovation of such productions that we can have a fruitful and timely effect on audience development whilst offering our best artists opportunities for new work. Despite this, we decided to postpone

artistic director ’ s note

almost all our 2020 shows and initiatives; we have decided not to produce anything before the fourth quarter of 2020 and even then, we are playing safe. That is not something we are used to. In fact, playing safe has a subjective meaning here. Our ethos remains. Teatru Malta takes risks, and I don’t feel we’re playing safe with what we have in store, in terms of artistic content. However, safety is always a priority and safety is not only about having a fever—it’s also about the wellbeing of our artists and our audiences. After all, isn’t all art essential to our wellbeing? In fact, when it came to programming the rest of 2020, we decided to go for projects which can happen even if the pandemic persists, at least in ways we already know. In the midst of a certain degree of unclarity, we don’t want to gamble with public funds and we don’t want to gamble with artist schedules. As Bernard Shaw put it, “in gambling the many must lose in order that the few may win” and we want our artists and audiences to come out as winners. So, unless 2020 decides to move on to sudden collisions from astronomical objects or introduce another ice age (judging by our daily reactions to climate change, I’m not surprised by anything anymore) this programme will forge ahead. In the meantime, besides what you can find in these pages, we lobbied internally

and externally for urgent, clearer and fairer guidelines and were involved in the writing of the most recent update of such. We used over 30% of our remaining yearly programming budget to support artists in a time of need whilst still being true to our production-led nature. The successful applicants are getting much needed cash flow whilst guaranteeing their time in the next two years. It would have been easier for us to come out strongly with sudden productions, with the premise of regenerating the economy or paving the way for live theatre. However, I feel that this is not what our ecosystem needs, nor what our role is. Unlike other public cultural organisations, we are not bound by one venue, and we do not employ a large number of actors or musicians. We are not wasting resources if we stall and focus on other activities—we would waste resources if we fast-track our process and produce work which would not be up to the growing standard of Teatru Malta. I don’t feel we should be competing for audiences at a moment when the private sector needs oxygen and reassurance. Our primary role as a theatre company is not to reset the economy—we will leave that to the economy experts. Our primary role as a national theatre company is not to be what you want us to be or what we want to be: it’s to be whatever you need us to be. We’ll keep on trying.

2020 Programme Update



IN OTHER NEWS... After a successful call for applications was issued, Antonella Axisa was reinstated as Festival Director of Trikki Trakki! The Festival is now moving into its 4th year and, after having just won the Arts Award for Best Project for Children and Teenagers, let’s just say that she has her work cut out for her. Antonella is a creative freelancer working mainly as an actress, presenter and voiceover artist. Her theatre training started at Malta’s national drama school and continued abroad at the Goldsmiths College in London, in the Chubbuck Technique in Brussels, and at the Lee Strasberg school in Los Angeles. She has been the Trikki Trakki festival director for the past three years, and has worked hand-in-hand with us to make this festival grow from strength to strength with each passing year. Applications for schools will be out soon, so teachers stay tuned because Trikki Trakki’s round the corner.

This project has been brewing for quite a long time, and stems from Premju & Proġett Francis Ebejer. We’re very excited to see it come to fruition in the coming months. We’re in the process of closing off our board of established theatre makers and academics and, once we do, the Atelier will be open to suitable


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applicants who are interested in forming part of this curated group of individuals with the intention of creating a safe space to discuss, debate and produce theatre.

These hand-picked artists will be directly associated with the National Theatre Company on a consultation and collaborative basis in their specific area of theatre expertise. The associate artists will work closely with us and our artists as our upcoming programme of events continues to unfold.

We were hard at work putting the final touches on getting our costume house organized during the pandemic. In 2019, we invested and bought off May Vassallo’s legendary wardrobe to start our own here in the heart of Żejtun. The Teatru Malta wardrobe, an investment and ongoing project that’s (so far) been two years in the making, is nearing completion and we’re very much looking forward to having a fully-functioning costume house open for rentals in the coming months! As you can imagine, a wardrobe of this magnitude needs to be managed, so in the coming days we’ll be launching a vacancy for a Wardrobe Supervisor—keep an eye out for our socials, and if you have a passion for theatre fashion, then make sure to send us your CV!

Our Teatru Malta publications are getting a much needed revamp, and together with Kotba Calleja we’re working on upgrading and re-inventing the way we publish books here at Teatru Malta. So far we’ve had two successful publications which have fallen under the cap of our Classics Project where we select one celebrated modern author and publish three of their respective works translated to Maltese per year. In 2018

2020 Programme Update



it was Harold Pinter; in 2019 it was Eugène Ionesco; this year we’re excited to announce it’s France Rame. Together with this collection of works, we’re also working on publishing printed scripts from our Teatru Malta repertoire of shows with the intention of selling them online... but more about that soon.

During these quieter months, we also dedicated some time to reorganizing our database. We really do believe in the importance of record keeping, and have been fortunate enough to have recorded all our shows from our very first programme of events in 2018. Photos, videos, bio notes, recordings—you name it, we have it. So it was just a question of organising it all and taking stock of everything in our possession. The goal is to eventually make these records available online, so we’re working towards eventually making this a reality. Stay tuned—there’s a lot in the pipeline.

This feels like it’s taken us three years to do, because it actually has taken us three years. Truth be told, we were so busy producing theatre that we really never found the time to write about it on the monthly. Who would have thought it would have taken a global pandemic and a couple of extra hands around the office to finally get our newsletter up and running? All the latest Teatru Malta updates are to be released every first Monday of each month, starting this August! Check your inboxes on the 3rd of August because it’s finally happening, and if you wouldn’t have heard from us then you’re not on our mailing list so sign up to our newsletter by clicking here today!

Remember our cute opera for children? Well, we’re very focused on turning this production into a tourable show visiting schools all


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over Malta and Gozo. The intention is for this project to be up and running by the next scholastic year, so fingers crossed that both the schools and the cats will be back this autumn!

The Teatru Malta e-shop is close to becoming a reality! We intended on launching this last March but, due to a few unprecedented delays, we were left with no choice but to push this project up. It’s not quite there yet, but we’re certainly closer to the finish line—in the meantime, we’re working on all the merchandise we’ll be making available to you online in the coming months.

We’re really interested in having our audiences become more than just guests at our shows. Like other things that have been on the back burner for a while, this has definitely been one of them. Through the different schemes which we plan to launch in the coming months, members will stand to benefit from anything from discounts on publications and performances, to special access to productions. We can’t wait to have you take a look at what’s in store.

2020 Programme Update


what ’ s next


The Xilallu troublemakers are fired up and ready to roll out their last set of surprise performances this summer! After having to postpone all scheduled shows, gymnasts, free-runners, performers and members of local group Maltese Motion are ready to get back out on the streets of Valletta doing what they do best! Xilallu was conceived as an ongoing project, made up of a number of performances programmed throughout the year including acrobatics, movement, acting and parkouring, all in the hopes of creating a dialogue that will shed light on current social issues. With the teenage community as our audience, get ready for these artists to make the street their stage yet again, starting now! In collaboration with Aġenzija Żgħażagħ and Studio 18.

2020 Programme Update


what ’ s next


Yes you read that right! We almost made it, but after yet another series of unfortunate events (including Covid-19) which had us cancel our second programmed run of shows last April, Colin is back and ready to take the ClubHouse stage this October for one night only (fingers crossed). But that’s not it—we’ll also be streaming this performance LIVE in cinema! But more details about this to follow soon. A refresher for all those who aren’t already aware—A Stroke of (Bad) Luck is a biographical piece based on the life of Colin, who suffered a stroke some years ago, after relocating to Malta. He was the high commissioner of Australia in Malta who came for work, fell in love, left his job and stayed on to continue his life passion: theatre, where he became a mainstay in local productions. This is a personal and intimate portrait of a man and his partner, seasoned actress and director Nanette Brimmer, as they come to grips with their new normal. The production also marks the Maltese debut for established theatre director and former Associate Director of the National Theatre of Scotland, Simon Sharkey, as co-writer to Nanette Brimmer and director of the show. In collaboration with MADC.


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what ’ s next


Wonderland is not always what it seems, and this year Teatru Malta will be putting this theory to the test by turning things on their heads and presenting a ‘DIY-Theatre’ package in collaboration with Żigużajg Festival this November. Inspired by societal ideals, Alice in a Wonderless Land will reflect the way society compartmentalises women into boxes like dolls by creating... its very own doll. The production will be unique to any other we’ve ever produced, as we’ll be packaging the show, Franca Rame’s Alice nel Paese senza Meraviglie, and sending this beautifully broken doll directly to schools and organizations with a set of instructions for the students to unravel! In conjunction with this, we will also be translating twenty-one of Franca Rame’s texts to Maltese with Professor Simone Galea and Dr Marco Galea, and will be publishing them alongside the premiere of the project in November 2020, which will be directed by Sean Buhagiar and supported by the Istituto Italiano di Cultura. In collaboration with ŻiguŻajg.

2020 Programme Update


what ’ s next


Since performing in theatres is a little 2019, we decided that it might be best to move onto louder things—and no, we’re not talking about your television or computer screens! Picture or rather listen to this... there’s just one hour to go, and all the villagers are frantically preparing for the arrival of a very special guest. But something is missing, and just what might that be, you ask? Why, Il-Ġulbiena of course! But this mysterious plant doesn’t just grow anywhere. To find it, a brave volunteer must journey into the Wicked Witch’s dark cottage, where nobody has dared to enter before. Who will be the unfortunate chosen one to go on this perilous journey? And what other surprises lie in store? Tune in for a one-night-only magical radio adventure like none other this Christmas! In collaboration with Spazju Kreattiv.


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take a look at us

Sean Buhagiar Artistic Director Over the course of the pandemic, you may have noticed that we introduced a few members to our ever growing Teatru Malta team. So, to avoid any further confusion, we thought we’d update you all on the state of our office family tree. We really do make a pretty picture.

Mireille Estelle Camilleri Programme Coordinator

Nicole Blackman Production Manager


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Maria Angela (Mang) Vassallo Administration Manager

take a look at us

Alessia Caruana Marketing & Brand Executive

Simon Bartolo Content Editor

Antoine Zammit Senior Officer Precincts & Administration Marlon Apap Clerical Officer

2020 Programme Update


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Main partners

Co-producers & collaborators



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