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AUTHOR: Trevor Zahra
VENUE: Sir Temi Zammit Hall, University of Malta
DATES: 29, 30, 31 October 2010
DIRECTOR: John Suda
CHOREOGRAPHY: Emma Loftus
CAST: John Suda, Michael Tabone, Ian Fenech, Maria Buckle, Mary Rose Mallia, Larissa Bonaci, Christian Scicluna, Ann-Marie Buckle, Adam Buckle, Corinne Baldacchino, Luke Mifsud
SUMMARY: Gabra ta' grajjiet qosra u divertenti kif jistghu jitwasslulna biss permezz tal-pinna ta' Trevor Zahra. Nibdew bin-namur tan-nannu u n-nanna, inkomplu bil-familja waqt il-gwerra u nibqghu sejrin sal-gurnata tal-lum.
* supported by the Malta Arts Fund.
What the Papers Said:
Nostalgic laughter from the past
André Delicata, The Times, Malta
The concept of looking through a photograph album and setting a nostalgic train of thought in motion is not a new idea.
However, Trevor Zahra’s take on this concept is fun and fresh and its brilliantly witty script is far removed from a dull set piece. Based on his book of short stories, Ritratti Sepja – Daħk mill-Passat ran last weekend and was a hilarious, rollicking tale of the love and lives of the members of the narrator’s family over the years – spanning mainly the first half of the 20th century.
The premise centred around John Suda’s tongue-in-cheek portrayal of a middle-aged narrator, who addresses the audience directly and invites them on a journey to meet his grandparents and their children as well as other members of his extended family.
The stories start with the courtship of his grandparents in the late 19th century, where his pretty and young Nanna Ċensa is pursued by a moustachioed and well-endowed Nannu Salvu, played by Larissa Bonaci and Ian Fenech respectively.
What I liked about the performances was that there was doubling on the part of each actor, showing their versatility on stage.
While Michael Tabone and Mary Rose Mallia played Nanna Ċensa’s parents while she was still young, they morphed into Ċensa and Salvu when they grew older and Mr Fenech and Ms Bonaci, in turn morphed into Ċensa and Salvu’s own children – the narrator’s various aunts and uncles and second cousins, along with Maria Buckle, who first played Ċensa’s aunt, and then her daughter Betty.
The strength of the performances held the audience’s attention and allowed them to follow the different changes in character with minimal confusion. I particularly liked Ms Mallia’s performances as both Nanna Ċensa and her mother, where she portrayed the typical Maltese larger-than-life matriarch exceptionally well.
Mr Tabone’s near-perfect comic timing ensured that his characters were both very credible and entertaining. Ms Buckle’s performance as Auntie Betty was most enjoyable – she gave it that typically nosey but well-meaning older sister kind of quality which matched her American accent well as a returning émigré during the war years, trying to involve herself in the love lives of her brothers and sisters.
Mr Fenech’s Uncle Bert, the artist, with his dandy ways and his Italian accent was particularly fun, especially in the group family scenes where he attempts to boss people around only to get his come-uppance at the hands of his parents and sisters in classic Maltese cutting sar-casm; while Ms Bonaci was surprisingly adept at modulating her interpretation according to the various characters she portrayed.
The children were played by Christian Scicluna, Corinne Baldacchino and Adam Buckle, who also doubled for the young narrator in an endearing scene where he begs, in broken English, his young American cousin Jackie, played very well by Anne Marie Buckle, to reconsider becoming a nun.
I particularly liked the backdrop of a Maltese village street – a real one, which had been photographed and blown up to real size, which was simple, yet effective.
However, the rest of the scenes which did not involve the exterior of the street were rather complex – especially the scene changes involving cumbersome pieces of furniture – and tended to slow down the pace of an otherwise good production.
Mr Suda, who envisaged all this, rather let his enthusiasm for the piece take over more practical concerns and although the show itself was highly entertaining, it was rather long. Certain elements, such as Luke Mifsud’s dance as “the wind”, could have been shortened considerably.
It was Mr Zahra’s inimitable brand of humour which kept the whole piece flowing nicely and sent the audience back home reminiscing and wondering whether their own families were as wacky, loving and filled with as much joie de vivre as this one.
pictures by Joseph A. Borg