The Need for a Contemporary Theatre
in t
his our neutral*, neutered, sterile nation - at least as evidenced by our theatres today.

First published as a postscript to the play U L-ANĠLU ĦABBAR


And yet, if the audience does laugh, it is the of laughter that comes from having to compensate for the bare, senseless panorama by which we are surrounded, the laughter that seeks to escape the embarrassing scenes (of our lives) that the audience is forced to assist to.  Which is why there are those who find it more comfortable to try and seek what a foreign stage, far away from our shores, has to offer..

And yet, if needs be, we shouldn’t give a .... about what’s happening in the well-established theatres of Europe or America. It is time we decided what we ourselves should be doing. If we still want and prefer the comfort of foreign dramatic stereotypes –  which are indeed comfortable because they just might interest us and provide some universal appeal, since we too are part of the human race and yet they fail to appeal to us Maltese more particularly –  ... if we still seek this comfort, then we are still languishing in the cultural inertia which we have always espoused.

Because we need a more particular theatre, a theatre with a more direct appeal. And regardless of the craft and skill that foreign dramas offer, they never have the direct bearing, nor the more focused intent that is needed to recreate the particular Maltese environment we inhabit – our experience. They always fail to wake us out of the comfortable anesthesia of our teatrin, in order to discover the uncomfortable anxiety that a contemporary theatre can offer. 

It is wrong to believe that, simply because Malta is geographically small, this inevitable means that the Maltese experience is therefore unable to elicit a universal, relevant artistic expression. (Does this bear repeating?) 

The richness that is Malta and its ancient people lies beneath the strata and sub-strata of our culture, a richness that has never been allowed to see the light of day of the relevant Maltese Theatre. 

For a writer who wants to commit himself to this endeavour, the prime resources are already at hand, the horizons are limitless, the journey is at its beginning.

But such a writer has to go it alone in our present environment.

(At least in this overcrowded land of ours, where everybody wants to know where you’re going, and yet everybody assumes he knows where you’ve been... and nobody cares to see you set off, in any case.)

In the meantime, we’d rather commit ourselves to discuss... what MIGHT be done sometime who knows when (who cares anyway!). Until the day will come when contemporary drama, the undiscovered new plays of today, end up getting older and older, until they becomes History, even better, they becomes FOLKLORE. And then maybe, they becomes comfortable (to stage). But by then, the need for a contemporary theatre, which reflects a society that is going through the rapid development which our society is going through today (bla bla bla see above, first line, first paragraph...) by then, this need for a contemporary, relevant theatre will remain, still, the subject of a discussion, detached and separate from the life and history of this our neutral, neutered and sterile nation.  At least, as evidenced by our theatres today.

* Written in 1995, this reference to neutrality has now been effectively...  neutered by Malta's accession to the EU in 2004.



Snin wara armajn, ta’ min wieħed jirrevedi dan id-diskors dwar id-drammaturgu Malti?... Kieku jkun tajjeb li meta forsi jinstab xi ħadd li għadu jinteressah f’dana kollu, naraw nistgħux niġbdu xi ftit konklużjonijiet li jitfgħu  ftit dawl, jew tal-anqas jingħata riassunt ta’ kif inbidlu l-affarijiet, jekk inbidlu, mill-punt di vista tad-drammaturgu Malti: kemm remah ’il bogħod jew kemm żvija. Jew kemm drammaturgi sakkru l-kexxun u rmew iċ-ċavetta darba għal dejjem.

Daħla li għamilt għax-xahar ta’ Ġunju (2016) fil-blog tiegħi, forsi tirrefletti tajjeb dawn l-istess sentimenti:

      “Si scrivono ancora commedie, 
        ma con vergogna o con paura”
 Ruggero Jacobbi

            I was struck by an article in Hystrio (February 2016) by Fabrizio Sebastian Caleffi* which brought to mind an article I wrote some years ago about what eventually became Sunday paper correspondence fodder regarding Dead Playwrights Revisited, a rare moment of introspection for a very limited few about the state of playwrighting and Maltese theatre, at a time when theatre in Malta required the perennial infusion of new blood. That, of course, no longer raises the blood pressure of our new generation of scribes.

As Caleffi puts it: “Cinquantaquattro anni dopo, The Cat on a Hot Tin Roof scotta ancora o ė cotta e, se é cotta, di chi?”

And to quote another volley by Caleffi:

“Quanti fantasmi circondano I’autore drammatico italiano? (...) il fantasma di Pirandello, che schiaccia i suoi continuatori... il fantasma della critica letteraria, col suo disprezzo pel teatro, il fantasma della critica teatrale, con la sua religione della struttura, dell’interesse, del ritmo... il fantasma del provincialismo per i cosmopoliti, il fantasma del bozzettismo per i regionali e i popolareschi... Che fare?”

It would be interesting to elicit a translation (in English or Maltese) which however puts all this in the context of Maltese theatre or theatre in Malta today. And more to the point, in the context of playwrighting in Malta today.

*Fabrizio Sebastian Caleffi, (April/June 2016),
‘Tennessee William Shakespeare’, HYSTRIO (XXIX - 2/2016), p.20.

OC. Ġunju 2016