Review: “L-Għarusa” by Teatru Malta

I (last-minute) decided to get tickets for Teatru Malta’s show called L-Għarusa.

All I can say is, it was fucked up.

So, I had to write about it.

We’ll get to why it was fucked up shortly.

The Location & Setting

Watching L-Għarusa on Halloween happened to be the perfect coincidence; Teatru Malta chose The Armoury in Birgu as the location for the show.

Picture a big courtyard outside an old building with crosses in front of the iron gate, plus, dark orange and purple lights.

Creepy is the perfect word.

Once you enter the building, the audience is led through an installation before being seated. White curtains, drawings on the wall, a kneeling bench with straw on it, and mist hanging in the air.

It definitely set up the vibe for the show.

Teatru Malta’s choice for a stage was also unusual.

The small room was converted into a small theater with multiple layers of curtains and church benches as seats. The walls were white and the actors were standing there, unmoved, all wearing white. In the middle, hanging on the wall, was a big cross with Jesus Christ on it. With the use of lighting, the room looked like a small chapel (yet it doubled as an insane asylum).

The Characters

Teatru Malta’s website gives a short brief on the play:

This play focuses on the mental and emotional torments of Sister Wistina who swears herself into sisterhood after witnessing her beloved drown to his tragic death in front of her very eyes. The trauma of such has caused her to lose touch with reality, deluding herself into confusing her deceased beloved with Jesus Christ Himself.

During the play, Sor Wistina is constantly on a rant about her ‘boyfriend’ – Jesus Christ. Yes, actual Jesus. Sor Wistina is a nun, therefore, she’s praying to Jesus yet she’s also shouting like a crazy person.

And then there’s Tuteppi. Props to the writer, Ġużè Diacono, on the choice of name. The sound of the name comes off as a stammer which is exactly what the character does. Tuteppi is ‘lame’ which is noticeable in his use of childish language, as well as his stammering and physical contortions.

Meanwhile, we’re also introduced to Sor Tarċisija who plays the role of the ‘cultish’ nun that belittles Tuteppi and tries to convince Marija why she should stay at the convent. (Sounds like a dig at the church’s strict ways fifty years ago)

And finally, we’re presented with Marija who wants to leave the convent and be with her boyfriend. She represents the version of Sor Wistina before she tragically loses her loved one (and her mind).

Sexuality & Religion

There’s so much to comment on the main themes.

The play reaches its climax when Sor Wistina starts undressing to a white light which could be perceived as the symbol of Jesus.

She’s turned on and then lies down on the floor with her legs open as she describes ‘Jesus’ doing all sorts of things to her.

A nun getting off by imagining Jesus fucking her looks awfully twisted.

The audience is made aware that Sor Wistina is sexually deprived and frustrated as she deals with grief and loss. Meanwhile, she’s also trapped in her own mind as well as the physical confinements of the convent.

The play manages to twist the elements of religion and sexuality through dialogue. There is the duality of Sor Wistina praying to Jesus (almost cult-like) as well as praying to be sexually fulfilled.

Sexual frustrations and its impact on one’s mental health are real issues that people still face, and yet, were even bigger a few decades ago when social awareness was almost non-existent.

Tuteppi, being lame, also faces this issue. He wants Sor Wistina to be his girlfriend, yet when presented with Marija, then wants her and even manages to steal a kiss on her cheek. Sor Tarċisja then makes him feel bad for having such desires.

At one point before Sor Wistina strips, she suddenly kisses Marija (which was really unexpected) and it seems like she ‘converts’ Marija. Marija then starts giggling and standing on her own looking creepy until she puts on a crown of thorns at the end of the play.

Here, Marija represents the result of religious manipulation (in an extreme cult way) embedded with elements of mental health. The crown placed on her head may be a symbol of the mind being corrupted by thorns.

My Thoughts

I was not expecting the play to turn out the way it did.

I knew it was going to be a great performance because it’s Teatru Malta of course, yet, I was surprised at how they addressed sexuality and mental health so directly through the conventionalities of Catholicism.

The writing was also spot-on. At times, I had to focus hard on what the characters were saying since the Maltese jargon was rich. Plus, the actors played their parts flawlessly.

The setting, the theme of religion, and the language, all proved that the play was traditionally Maltese.

And yet, with the rich texture of the Maltese language and the heaviness of religion, the play was simple. There was a lack of props. The entire play was one scene. There was very little narrative, therefore, the play depended on dialogue as its driving force. And it worked.

It was definitely worth the watch.

After watching L-Għarusa, I’m excited for Teatru Malta’s next show this month: Il-Fidwa Tal-Bdiewa. If you haven’t bought your tickets yet, I highly suggest it. Click here to check it out!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: