I’ve been getting into watching local theater a lot lately.
A few months ago, I saw ‘Sweeney Todd’ at the Manoel Theater and watching a live performance is a raw experience.
You can sense that there’s a heaviness when watching a performance because of the human interaction between performers and their audience (it’s for this reason that I enjoy participating in open mics).
For Gozitans like myself, we aren’t as aware of the local theater scene. Yet, it’s very prominent in Malta and I’m glad that I’ve become more aware of it since I moved to Malta.
Last Friday, I watched ‘It-Teatru tal-Miskin’ (which means ‘the theater of the unfortunate’) at Aurora Theater and I had to write a review about it.
Here’s A Brief
Three clowns (‘buffi’ in Maltese) arrive in a town called Ħal Fern; a quiet, religious, closed-off town that no one leaves – and no one enters. The clowns are playful, loud and full of frivolity.
The clowns perform a story to the residents of the town about a boy called Bobby who was from the town that dared to wear high heels. The clowns meet resistance from the town’s mayor and the people are made to fear the clowns.
Bobby’s story ends tragically; he falls in love with another boy and they plan to marry yet the town riots against them. Bobby is sent away and we are not made aware of what happens to his lover. Bobby’s mother, on the other hand, goes blind during the riot and doesn’t know if her son managed to survive or not.
The Narrative Drive
It takes a while for the audience to fully understand what’s the story that the clowns are telling, however, the build-up towards it results in an ending that folds neatly like an envelope – everything is made clear in the end.
The play is full of sadness and sorrow:
- The audience is made aware of Bobby’s tragic story – only to realize that one of the clowns is actually Bobby.
- The clowns want to help the residents of the town by offering them bus tickets out of Ħal Fern yet the people are manipulated to fear leaving the town, even though they all want to.
- And the residents burn down the clowns’ caravan and Medusa dies (an old lady who was blind and turned out to be Bobby’s mother).
The play does not end on a happy note.
It’s called ‘tal-miskin’ because Bobby was unfortunate due to society’s mindset and the clowns were unfortunate too. They didn’t succeed in getting the residents to leave.
And yet, the clowns make it very clear that they aren’t going anywhere – they will continue to tell Bobby’s story until there is change.
I think this signifies how in our world today, although we are more accepting and tolerant of the LGBTQIA+ community, there are still people who are not educated enough and do not want to accept this change in society.
The clowns want to continue telling Bobby’s story because we need to continue having these conversations until we reach the ideal state – full tolerance and acceptance.
By holding people back from being their true selves, society damages and hurts other people.
Elements of Metafiction
It’s important to note the literary aspect of the play.
There are two performances going on during the play although the clowns perform once.
The clowns are performing to the unseen residents and are telling Bobby’s story, yet they are still performing to the physical audience in the theater.
The playfulness of the clowns and the different lenses to look at the play help build its strong dimensionality.
Finally, I enjoyed the descriptive use of the Maltese language, the alliterations and the poetic rhyming. The clowns were funny and their costumes were spot on. The acting and dancing took my breath away.
‘It-Teatru tal-Miskin’ was definitely worth a watch.