Shucks and *simper*!
Pick 'n' mix
Showtime rounds up local productions in the past theatre season
The Times of Malta, 1st June 2007
The past theatre season has been a somewhat mixed one. We have had the excellent, the average and the downright dreadful and all in the space of six and a half months. In this issue we'll look at productions by local companies.There have been some very good productions by the more established companies - plus the occasional turkey. But it has been good to note that the exorbitant cost of staging theatre in Malta has not yet dissuaded a few new companies from putting on some very laudable stuff.
Of the mainstream companies the MADC had a rather mixed season. Their early output was dominated by the One-Act-Play Festival at the MADC Clubroom Theatre. This was deemed very successful and - as is usually the case - it gave an opportunity for young, talented people to show what they could do. For the record it was won by 4.48 Psychosis, directed by Tony Attard.
The MADC panto at the Manoel Theatre this season was Hercules - The Panto. And... well, it never really got off the ground. After the rather embarrassing Sleeping Beauty of the previous year, we were promised a massive improvement. Sadly, apart from Ernest Camilleri's costumes, which were sensational, this panto was every bit as average as that of the previous year. Moving swiftly on to the theatre-in-the-round at St James and the MADC production of the comedy thriller Audacity, by Simon Mawdesley. This provided a directorial debut for Coryse Borg. And a pretty good fist she made of it too. It can be considered one of the successes of the MADC season.
Their production of the Stephen Sondheim musical Company at the Manoel Theatre, directed by Denise Mulholland with Rosetta Debatista as musical director, was also a success. Disliked by some, who baulked at its lack of a definable story line and unfamiliar musical numbers, it nevertheless broke new ground and was thoroughly enjoyed by the vast majority of its audience. Mikhail Basmadjan, in the pivotal role of Bobby was superb... as were Charlotte Grech, Wesley Ellul, Katherine Brown, Alan Montanaro and Julie James in supporting roles. At the end of March the MADC produced the Yasmina Reza play Life x Three, also at the Manoel Theatre. This left many people in the audience puzzled by its bizarre construction. However, the cast of four all gave good accounts of themselves.
At the time of writing, the MADC summer Shakespeare production - A Midsummer Night's Dream - is to be directed by Chris Gatt and to be staged, for the first time, in the Opera House ruins. Let's hope they do something about the unacceptable seating arrangements at that particular venue beforehand.
Anthony and Veronica Bezzina's production company Masquerade has, quite rightly, become established as one of the leading companies in Malta. They had a very good season, starting with a stunning production of Edward Albee's highly controversial play The Goat. Directed by Tony Bezzina and staged at St James last November, this was notable for brilliant performances by Manuel Cauchi, Isabel Ripard and from a highly promising young actor Jean Marc Agius.
Next up for Masquerade was the highly ambitious staging of Richard O Brien's cult musical The Rocky Horror Show. This was put on in the vast tent at Ta' Qali, which proved the ideal venue for a show that can cause a fair bit of mayhem and mess. Malcolm Galea made an excellent job of the part of the narrator and it was good to see Chris Dingli back here and working! The only real downer was the lacklustre performance of Matthew Simpson as a rather colourless Frank 'n' Furter.
Masquerade scored another huge success at the end of April, this time at The Manoel Theatre, when they brought the English musical show Beyond The Barricade back for a stunning three-night performance.
Adrian Buckle and Conrad Buttigieg's company Unifaun is also becoming established as a successful mainstream company. This season they were responsible for two excellent productions, both at St James. Mark Ravenhill's play Some Explicit Polaroids, directed by Chris Gatt, was spiky fare, with Coryse Borg giving the performance of her life.
Earlier this year in February, they produced Howard Brenton's Paul. Again directed by Chris Gatt, this play shocked quite a few people with its interesting interpretation of the scriptures.It was beautifully acted by Manuel Cauchi, Kevin Drake and a special mention for Stefan Cachia Zammit.Mario Micallef's company Talenti veered away from Shakespeare in Maltese this season. Instead in January Talenti produced a new staging of L-Impotenti, which went down very well with audiences at the Manoel. Talenti also presented L-Imfietah, by Mario Micallef and Zepp Camilleri at St James in March, in which Mr Micallef again played multiple roles.
There are some who believe that the relative decline of Maleth in recent years has coincided with its decision to present plays in English. We wouldn't go so far as to endorse that assessment, but they did have a rather mixed season. Of the newer companies Curtain Call got off to a very promising start with Simone Ellul's direction of David Mamet's all-girl play Boston Marriage. This was well served with excellent performances by Nanette Brimmer, Monica Attard and Rachel Darmanin Demajo.
It was good to see Actinghouse back producing again. However, their production of Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire at the MITP Theatre lacked the atmosphere essential for that great play. But it did contain an excellent central performance from Irene Christ.
The all-female company Du also staged a couple of productions at the MITP Theatre. They are beginning to establish themselves on the scene, which - considering the fact that they are a talented bunch - can only be a good thing.
So what does Showtime think were the three outstanding local productions of the 2006/2007 season? In no particular order: Masquerade's The Goat, Unifaun's Some Explicit Polaroids and Curtain Call's Boston Marriage. Stellar performances of the season came from Nanette Brimmer, Monica Attard and Rachel Darmanin Demajo in Boston Marriage, Isabel Warrington in The Goat and a special mention for Coryse Borg, who was absolutely amazing in Some Explicit Polaroids. As for male actors, there was Manuel Cauchi (naturally) both in The Goat and Paul, Kevin Drake and Stefan Cachia Zammit in Paul and Mikhail Basmadjan in Company. And finally Mario Micallef in L-Imfietah.