My best friend Jolene and I had a date night last week! We got a coffee with a pistachio croissant from a cafe and then headed to a secluded fortress at tas-Salina to watch Il-Fidwa tal-Bdiewa by Teatru Malta.
There’s a lot to unpack about this production.
Of course, I wanted to write about it.
The play is set in the early 15th century when Gonsalvo Monroy, an Aragonese nobleman, was the Count of Malta. The Maltese farmers revolted against him because he introduced heavy taxes although they were very poor. They struck a deal with Monroy to buy him out for 30,000 florins – yet the farmers never managed to get the full sum.
The farmers wanted their land to be free from colonizers so that future generations would be able to work the land and appreciate it.
This is still an issue today. We might not be living in medieval times, but farmers still face unfair face evictions and court cases.
There still are simple farmers who want to work land – not that there’s much land left to work in Malta. You’d think we’d try to preserve the little that we’ve got left.
Sidenote: The play also made my best friend Jolene relate to the situation in Palestine which is an interesting comparison. Generations of Palestinians have been fighting to reclaim their land and give their children a future in their country.
The Maltese Culture
Since the play took place in a fortress, the walls were old and the ‘theater’ had an earthy smell. Leaves and dust were covered over the stage floor, there was fresh produce in wooden baskets, leaves hung on the walls, and the lights were orange and purple.
It felt like autumn… and it felt like I was at my Nanna’s house (she has a farm). This feeling strengthened when the actors came on stage and I saw what they were wearing and the props they were using. Legit my Nanna owns some of the farming tools and basins. It felt good to see Maltese culture being represented in such a wholesome way.
Although the times have changed and there’s apartment buildings everywhere, there’s still these few places left, like my Nanna’s. I loved that the play reminded people of these cultural places – places that we’re losing which means, we are also losing our culture.
That’s one of the many reasons why I visit my Nanna’s house so often – I don’t want to lose the traditional feeling I get when I’m there.
Religion & Corruption
You can’t make a play about Maltese culture and history without mentioning the stronghold of the Catholic Church.
Two priests featured in this play, both representing the greed of clergymen.
Lee-N Abela played Don Sidor and she perfectly captured the stereotypical greedy-for-riches priest who didn’t pity the poor. His hypocrisy was ridiculous which created some laughable moments.
I loved the voice she put on to play the priest, along with her exaggerated whims and behaviorisms. She was classic Maltese. I couldn’t get enough of her.
Il-Fidwa tal-Bdiewa was captivating for many reasons. The live performance by the New Victorians all throughout was powerful, the actors’ strong voices, the constant movement and the use of space and props are just a few to mention.
In the beginning, I was confused about who was the protagonist of the story, however, it soon became clear that the family was the main character and not a singular person.
At first, I also got confused when actor changed from the mom to girlfriend to the wife. Yet again, this made sense later on.
Although the Maltese language was rich and archaic, I still managed to understand and keep up with the storyline. I appreciated that the language too represented traditional Maltese culture.
I walked out of the fortress after having just watched Il-Fidwa tal-Bdiewa feeling very good about myself. I felt like I watched something important on a social level as well as culturally and artistically.
It’s performances like these that people should watch more. The theater is the place to welcome people and tell these stories while also impacting them.
Teatru Malta definitely doesn’t disappoint. Their next production for the season is Lupu/Nagħġa (what a paradoxical title) and I can’t wait to watch it in January! Book your tickets now before they sell out!