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William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (abridged)

by Reed Martin & Austin Tichenor

Box Office Soon Open. 








 Title:   Il-Metamorfosi

Author:   Ovid

Adaptation:   Adrian Buckle & Trevor Zahra

Co-Production: Malta International Arts Festival

Venue:   Fort Saint Elmo

Dates:   10, 11 July 2017

Direction:   Stephen Oliver & Dominic Said

Cast:   Jamie Cardona, Magda van Kuilenburg, Karl Schembri, Stephen Mintoff, Lydia Portelli, Clayton Mallia, Ryan Cutajar, Julia Camilleri, Sarah Amato, Clint Chircop, Michela Farrugia

Stage Management:   Cathy Lawlor

Music:   Mario Sammut, Francesco Sultana, Claire Tonna & Yasmin Kuymizakis

Choreography:   Doug Comley & Sandra Mifsud

Set Design:   Romualdo Moretti

Costume Design:   Nicole Cuschieri

Graphic Design:   Mikhail Basmadjian



 What the Papers Said:



The transmogrifying forces of forbidden love

Unifaun Theatre lives up to its mythological name in a Greek homage at Fort St Elmo


Love is described as a “many-splendoured thing” by Fain and Webster in their 1955 song but the Greeks also thought, and rightly so, that it is a “many-gendered thing” and took it up in its multiple permutations in their expansive mythology.

Not only did they account for variation, but their version of love and lust was also more violent, visceral and real than the saccharine versions peddled in later eras.

Love, in others words, hurts. Ovid’s version of these scenarios were collected in his seminal Metamorphosis, which has influenced countless literary greats over the years.

Unifaun Theatre has chosen 17 of his myths to retell in Maltese, in a great collaborative effort between Adrian Buckle, who adapted them for the stage in English, and Trevor Zahra, who is responsible for the Maltese adaptation of Buckle’s lines.

Zahra chose cogent Maltese idiomatic expressions and often included rhyme in his character’s interpretations.

Running on Monday and Tuesday as part of the Malta International Arts Festival, Metamorfosi ta’ Ovidju is a performance piece which reflects the duality of its scripted content also in its production, direction and casting. With the interplay of the English to Maltese versions, with a final Maltese language product, and directed conceptually and including lighting design by Stephen Oliver, the interpretation of the Maltese script was in the hands of Dominic Said. The set was designed by the inimitable Romualdo Moretti, who managed to incorporate a swimming pool as an integral part of the performance space.

Live original music is in the hands of Mario Sammut, Francesco Sultana, Claire Tonna and Yasmin Kuymizakis, the traditional and ethereal costumes in the hands of Nicole Cuschieri, Ritienne Mallia Tabone, Maria Muscat and the entire piece stage managed by Cathy Lawlor.

I had the opportunity to review the play in its final stages of rehearsal and I must say that even without the lighting or music, which will undoubtedly create a fantastic effect, the performance was slick and very enjoyable.

Since then, I’ve also had the chance to see a couple of evening shots with the lighting system in place and the entire night-time show promises to be a feast for the senses.

The choice of the swimming pool was particularly apt and apart from the innovation of having most of the performances and scenes take place in the water and around it, the metaphor was a significant one – water both gives and takes life, like the waters of birth and those of the River Styx.

It is fluid and ever-changing just as the transformations – the physical metamorphosis of various characters in the performance – change the appearance and demeanour of those cursed by the gods.

The curses are based on pride, a lust for power as well as the desires of the flesh, the chastisement of overreaching, ambitious characters and others whose attractions are either frowned upon or doomed. Pride does indeed come before a fall, at least according to the god Cupid, whose personal argument and petty jealousies with Jove, lead him to seek revenge by using his arrows for vengeance and mischief. Jamie Cardona’s Cupid was indeed a manic version of a cheeky cherub – more adult and certainly more vindictive.

It is with barely hidden delight which people will take to the character. He weaves the plot around the unfortunate ones who fall at his arrows. With a chorus of three muses made up of Magda van Kuilenberg (Mneme), Sarah Amato (Melete) and Michaela Farrugia (Aoide), the cast is made up of some established actors, like van Kuilenberg and Cardona, but mostly of very good newcomers, who I hope to see more of in the future.

These three actors also doubled as several other characters, along with a principal female, Julia Camilleri, and a principal male, Stephen Mintoff. Their versions of youth, troubled and tranquil, whose lives and those of their loved ones are turned upside down by the lust of men and gods, leading to rape, banishment, torture and death are echoed in the myths of Apollo and Daphne, Io, Narcissus and Echo, Hermaphroditus and Salmacis, Arachne, Hyacinthus and The Rape of Proserpina.

Both Camilleri and Mintoff portrayed their multiple interpretations well, with a strong understanding of the suffering of their characters. I particularly enjoyed Camilleri’s ability to change the demeanour of her various young women to expose a range of traits – both less admirable and desirable.

Lydia Portelli’s mother figure took on various roles from the kindly to the vengeful, while Ryan Cutajar made a strong case for fatherly love as Daedalus and showed a darker side as Pluto, god of the underworld. Karl Schembri played Tereus, King of Thrace, among other roles, whose lust and violent infidelity led to a tragic end. Clayton Mallia as Apollo, Mercury and Perseus, modulated his characters well, while Clint Chircop was most notably Jupiter.

The intimate performance space brings the strength of the piece physically closer to the audience, which I trust will be well entertained as this performance is not one to miss.

-Andre Delicata, The Times of Malta, 8/7/17


 A Night of Performance Prowess

Adrian Buckle and Trevor Zahra have teamed up to adapt Ovid’s Metamorphosis to Maltese. Cupid the god of love, who is found in each of the scenes, develops narrations about the different Greek Gods and Goddesses, about the true meaning of love. Although, they may achieve love, at other times, they fail tragically. The play was one of its kind on the Maltese islands, within St. Elmo, utilising a pool, as the stage, where all of the acting took place. The acting, stage presence and adaptions all proved to be an excellent masterpiece of Maltese genius.

-Comino Magazine, 13/07/17





Image Gallery by Darrin Zammit Lupi (Reuters)

Image Gallery by Christine Muscat Azzopardi