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Guffaws and Gasps at the MADC One Act Play Festival

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Once a year the MADC clubrooms become the welcoming host of the MADC One Act Play festival. Elena Stilon takes a look at this year’s edition of a festival that is particularly popular among theatre folk.

The MADC One Act Play Festival has always strived to help those interested in theatre to try out acting or directing and serve as a platform for their talents. Additionally, the performances are judged by a panel of select judges to award six prizes in different categories.

The festival opened with ‘Murder Play’ directed by Maria Somers. The friendship between two couples is tested when hosts play a nasty joke on their guests. However, as the play progresses it becomes clear that there is something much deeper and sinister than a simple prank brewing here. Steffi Thake was very strong in the part of ‘Jane’ as the vengeful wife, brought the cold heartedness and indifference of a potential killer to life. In fact she rightly walked away with the title of Best Actress. Even though at times the presence of certain characters could have been felt more and the dialogue tended to get a bit dry, Gianni Grioli and Marisa Aqulina managed give a good portrayal of a distraught couple unwillingly caught in the wife’s game of revenge. As for Jane’s poor unassuming husband portrayed by Antoine Saliba (nominated for Best Promising Actor), well we’ll never know for sure what happened, will we?

Now who doesn’t enjoy pranks? Once again, the joy and exhilaration that comes with pranking was presented to us through ‘April Groom’ directed by Martina Zammit. Here we meet a best friend who decided a harmless prank was what the bridegroom needed, before moving onto a life of marriage and commitment. The play also resulted in two wins of the night; that of Best Actor awarded to Jovan Pisani playing the part of the best friend turned prankster and of Best Promising Actor awarded to Kevin Naudi for playing the groom. On the whole, this was an enjoyable performance with a number of laughs here and there as the various twists of the story unfolded.

Everyone longs to know what their future holds for them, but up to what extent? ‘Nobody Famous’ directed by James Sultana brings forth two friends longing to achieve fame and fortune. Unfortunately everything seemed to go pear shaped after Brenda and Heather visit Madame Mooch, a local psychic. Brenda and Heather were given a believable portrayal by Robyn Vella and Diandra Anne Mamo respectively. Robyn Vella in particular shone and managed to bring out the relatable nature of the character. The play had its comic moments however at times they seemed slightly stale.

The cherry on the cake for the first evening was surely ‘Blind Date. Inc’ directed by David Chircop who was also rewarded the title of Runner Up for Best Director. This was surely the climax of the night. The cleverly set up stage with merely a black drop, screen and two tables and chairs helped to retain the attention on the enjoyable script and variety of characters as each actor had the opportunity to interpret multiple roles. Alba Florian Viton (nominated for the category of most promising Actress) was extremely memorable in two of the sketches as an older woman lusting over men called Ernest (pronounced Errrrnesst). Her portrayal brought each and every character to life. Maria Caruana, who also got nominated for Best Actress owned the stage during ‘The day the bunny cried” monologue. The cast had the audience in stitches at all times making the performance a great success.

‘Women and Wallace’, the dramatic play directed by Luke Farrugia was not the most straightforward of plays. The play chronicles the great impact Wallace’s mother’s suicide had on his life and relationships. Alexander Gatesy Lewis’s performance took us on a journey and he was in fact awarded a nomination. The rest of the cast had a bit of a harder time as they had to represent the different female characters flitting in and out of the stages of Wallace’s life. Yet in the end they were successful in translating the overall message of ‘Women and Wallace’, as it even went on to win “Best Production”.

Antonella Mifsud who played Wallace’s grandmother explains how this experience left quite an effect even though it wasn’t her first time acting. She points out that one of the most important ingredients in producing a successful show is the actual chemistry between the cast members. For both her and Maria Caruana from Blind Date Inc., the festival was a “positive learning experience” they won’t forget easily. Maria found that through this event she gained both theatrical experience and friends for life. On the other hand, Vikesh Godhwani, the director and scriptwriter of our next play explains how both writing and directing create a “great formula” in the creation of a show. He explains that to be able to write a good piece of work, he attempts to picture how it would actually look on stage.

Godhwani’s “Coco’s Fabulous Speed-Dating Soiree” was a perfect ending to the festival as it was a fast moving energised performance  that told the story of an eclectic number of characters who have come to attend a speed- dating event in the hope of finding their soul mate, yet things do not go as planned. The play had nominations in all the award categories (Adela Silvestre and Magdalena Van Kuilenburg for Best Actress, Andre Agius for Best Actor, and Sean Borg for Mosy Promising Actor) and ended up walking away with 2 awards; Best Director to Vikesh Godhwani and Most Promising Actress which went to Janelle Caruana for her portrayal of the seemingly holy and innocent Christine. The female element in the play was definitely the strongest with the exception of the male character of Coco as interpreted with great gusto by Andre Agius. The play was also the runner up for best production as altogether it was a very polished performance making it a delight to watch and providing the audience with laughs and reminding us of the unforgettable experience the MADC One Act Play Festival brings with it.

 

 

 

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A Small Troupe with Outsize Talent

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Summer is winding down just as the dance season is heating up!

This fall brings a host of delights from the local dance scene. After twenty-five years of owning one of the most prestigious ballet schools on the island, principal Brigitte Gauci Borda and choreographer Lynnne Salomone Reynaud, have come together to create a young dance company called Malta Dance Theatre (MDT), an offshoot of the aforementioned Brigitte Gauci Borda School of Dance.

Under the direction of Lynne Salomone Reynaud, a renowned local artist known for her highly successful career, MDT is venturing beyond the traditional ballet world and focusing on homegrown talent to provide fresh choreography and music. At heart, dance is all about expression and being yourself and alive in the moment resonates deeply with MDT.

This new project entitled ‘Lacrimosa‘, has as much to do with social issues as it does with artistic ones. Its push and pull between narrative and dancing seeks to convey the ill-treatment of human kind and human emotion. Movements have a certain speed to them that results in contemporary dance within the ballet vocabulary, whilst also having an infusion of just everyday pedestrian walking. Overall, the performance has the necessary components to create an environment that a person can identify with, even though they are sitting in the audience, because the subject matter is real. In fact, part of the company’s mission is to blur the lines between dance, theatre and reality.

The hour-long program will premiere on the 7th and 8th September, at the MITP theatre in Valletta. MDT’s show will prove to be a night of arched backs, adventures in dance – not tomention artistic exploration.

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Luck, Love and Musical Theatre

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The various reactions to the word “musical” often provide for great amusement-  Some express pure joy accompanied by a favourite song or memorable dance moves while others tend to show disgust, a shrugging of the shoulders and a swift exit from the conversation. Elena Stilon met up with 3 members of   Masquerade’s first Musical Theatre Group to talk about their upcoming musical Lucky Stiff, and find out why it is not some namby pamby set of dance moves and corny songs but a feel good musical for all ages.

The show, based on the 1983 novel ‘The Man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo’ promises to be one full of witty humour with unexpected twists and turns. It tells the tale of Harry Witherspoon who, in the middle of his mundane life, gets to know about the death of his mysterious uncle and with it an inheretance of 6 million dollars. However, to receive the inheritance he must go to Monte Carlo accompanied by his dead uncle’s corpse in a wheelchair. There, he must carry out the tasks set out for him in the will as the money will otherwise go to a dog home. Annabel Glick, a representative of the dog home, is also after the money; she follows Harry around watching for any misteps, hoping and praying that he slips up and as a result makes the dog home 6 million dollars richer. Meanwhile Rita LaPorta is also after Harry to try and get back the heart-shaped box which held the 6 million (in diamonds) which she had managed to get hold of with the help of her dead lover; Harry’s uncle.  These quirky situations somehow manage to merge into the fast paced and comical musical, Lucky Stiff.

Vikesh Godhwani, Tina Rizzo and Tina Frendo form part of the 8 member cast of Lucky Stiff and will be playing the characters Harry Witherspoon, Annabel Glick and Rita LaPorta respectively. All three explained how rehearsals have been ongoing since March and how it has been a long but rewarding process in order to end up with an unforgettable finished result.

For Vikesh the most rewarding part of putting this musical together is the fact that the show will ultimately be the result of a great team of people who have been working together for quite some time. Tina Rizzo tells us that for her the hardest parts of the rehearsals were trying to remain in character and keep a straight face during some of the jokes while at the same time learning and maintaining melodic harmonies. “However, the moment you see all the hard work paying off as the show starts to gel together is what all the blood sweat and tears is about,” admits Tina Frendo.

That being said learning lines and harmonies isn’t what makes a great musical. As all three actors admit, putting up a show has more to it than meets the eye. Tina Frendo explains how the hardest thing for her as an actor is having to adopt a Brooklyn accent for the part of Rita LaPorta, the nearest role to a villain in the musical. Nonetheless Rita’s character has such a lively, energetic and rather spontaneous side which Frendo could relate to, making the role more that much more fun and interesting to play.

When it comes to Rita’s more wild side Frendo found it exciting to be playing a character who in some ways could possibly be her alter-ego. In fact, despite her brashness and problem causing nature, both Tina Rizzo and Vikesh Godhwani state that Rita is one of their favourite characters as she captures the audience with her eclectic vibe.

Vikesh reveals how this was the first time he took on such a main role in a musical as singing was never his forte. However with time and the help of his musical theatre tutor Rachel Fabri, he built the confidence needed for such a role. Additionally, the character of Harry is required to push around a corpse in a wheelchair for most of the course of the musical and this was another challenging (and odd to say the least!) aspect of the role. Then again, that, together with the evolution of Harry’s character are what produce such an interesting and engaging role.

Annabel Glick is another unique character as even though she can be considered to be the heroine of the show she isn’t as predictable as one might think. Tina Rizzo reveals how while Annabel might succumb to the stereotypical reserved girl falling for the equally geeky guy, as the plot unfolds  another side to her emerges as she continues to fight for all that she believes in and holds close to her heart. However, Tina confesses that Annabel’s overly cautious nature, which makes Annabel so different to her own character is what makes portraying her all the more difficult.

On the other hand, Vikesh describes how he feels he relates to his character on account of him slowly emerging from his shell of safety and routine. Harry is a regular Tom living his life day by the day in the same rut until the unexpected happens which makes him realise that he was merely existing and not living.  As a result he is somewhat of an unconventional hero and not the typical knight in shining armour of the fairytale kind, which makes him extremely relatable.

All the cast agree that the musical is beyond skin deep. Tina Frendo feels inspired by the evolution of the characters as some of them grow by the end of the musical inspiring viewers to do the same. Harry’s choice to embrace what comes his way as a contrast to his previous way of living is an example to us all to take the plunge. Vikesh and Tina Rizzo both mention greed and money as being key themes to the musical as ultimately the message of the show is that it is not money that leads to happiness, but love.

The musical was ultimately chosen because of the size of the cast and because its quirky vibe worked perfectly with the group’s dynamics. The cast stress that it isn’t a musical just for those who love to listen to a character burst into song or dance in the middle of dialogue, but a show for everyone. Lucky Stiff brings together comedy, romance, and even elements of murder mystery which keep the story intriguing and entertaining throughout. Therefore for those who aren’t particular musical fans, do not despair, for here is a musical just for you!

Lucky Stiff will be the first full length show to be staged at Blue Box, the theatre at the brand new Masquerade premises, M Space. Performances will take place this weekend, the 22nd and 23rd June at 8 pm and on the 3rd July at 5pm. For tickets send an email to info@masquerademalta.com or call 79793737

Posted in Culture, News, Theatre

Acting Classes by Top Theatre Scholar at M Space

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Professor Michael Earley will be conducting an intensive, 7-day performance summer school at M Space – Masquerade’s new premises for the performing arts in Msida. Michael Earley is Professor of  Theatre and Principal of Rose Bruford College of  Theatre and Performance, London’s international drama school. He was Director of the Theatre School at Yale University and taught at the Juilliard School in New York. He was also chief producer of plays for BBC Radio Drama.

This workshop will take place from the 22 to 28 July, daily from 9am to 4pm and is aimed at participants with prior experience in acting. Participants will develop acting and physical skills required to creatively and actively engage with performing a text. The course is based on a contemporary approach to Stanislavski’ s ‘system’, which is the foundation of modern approaches to acting. The training will help prepare performers who are interested in acting professionally for the stage, film and television.

The workshop will focus on physical warm-ups, improvisations, developing acting techniques, investigating a personal approach to acting and preparing scenes to present to the class and at a public showing on the final day of the workshop. Evenings will be spent rehearsing monologues and scenes. The presentation of work to an invited audience will take place on the last day of the summer school at the M Space intimate theatre, BLUE BOX.

Masquerade Director anthony bezzina who has been working to bring Michael Earley to Malta describes this workshop as “an immersive experience into the world of professional acting and a taster of what it’s like to be in a full-time drama school.” In October 2012, Masquerade inaugurated its new M Space premises. Adding to its international connections, Masquerade also announced its collaboration with the London-based Rose Bruford College of Theatre & Performance, to offer a series of technical training sessions and master classes.

The participation fee for this course is €450.00. All participants are chosen on the basis of application, experience and a letter of recommendation. Those interested in applying are to send an email on veronica@masquerademalta.com.

 

Posted in Culture, Theatre

A Disney Classic with a Twist

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With the KSU Students’ Fest just around the corner, Vikesh Godhwani talks to a couple of this year’s stars and the director about #LionKink; a new take on the beloved Disney classic. 

Simply looking at the title of this year’s Students’ Fest is already an indication that the show has many surprises in store. “We all love the classic adventure of young Simba becoming the king of the jungle. There are those who go crazy for the Disney film version and others who prefer the staged version. Our take on it is an original merge of the two, using the script from the film and adapting it to the Maltese scenario,” says director Luke Dalli.

This suggests that this year’s Students’ Fest will not shy away from referring to what has been happening in Malta recently – which should provide great entertainment after the tension-filled election period. “This will result in a unique staged version of this evergreen tale,” says Luke.

Luke is now practically synonymous with Students’ Fest, and his love for theatre keeps him coming back year after year. “To be a good director you need talent, but to be a great director you need years of hard work. This is precisely why I treasure every opportunity I’m given, and consider it another step towards becoming a better director,” he says. “One has to start somewhere, and Students’ Fest is one opportunities that can be used as a learning curve for any young director,” he adds.

“This is my sixth Students’ Fest now and every year, when it’s all over, we look back and say – that was another miracle! To put up such good quality shows year in year out, in just a month and a half of rehearsals, is pretty impressive,” he admits. He adds that one never has enough time when putting up these shows, but it wouldn’t be Students’ Fest without the exciting rush that comes with tight schedules and immediate deadlines.

Luke is particularly excited about #LionKink because of the talented main cast. “I’m certain they will use all their strengths to put on a production that they can all be proud of.”

The cast shares his enthusiasm, as their roles are not only childhood favourites but held in high esteem by thousands, if not millions around the world. “As a child, I couldn’t help but idolise Nala,” says Becky Camilleri, who plays the beloved lioness. “My mum would often find me re-enacting all of my favourite Nala scenes with my soft toys.”

Becky feels that the pressure is on as she wants to present Nala as a layered character rather than just the sweet yet stereotypical one she is often portrayed to be. “Having watched the Broadway production, I have come to appreciate her true strength and determination which is often overlooked,” she adds.

Gianni Selvaggi, who plays Simba, also feels a little extra pressure as it is a story that is close to so many people’s hearts, meaning that there are certain expectations. Both Becky and Gianni are actors, having taken part in Masquerade’s pantomime, ‘The Curse of Snow White’.

They are joined by a talented young cast which includes Keith Zammit (Timon), Gayle Lynn Callus (Pumba), Stephie  Soler (Sarabi), Analise Cassar (Rafiki), Gilbert Gauci (Zazu), Sean Borg (Scar), Paula Mintoff (Shenzi), Hillary Briffa (Banzai) and Matteo Depares (Ed).

“The best thing about Students’ Fest is that you can have a laugh in a tight-knit environment where students have just come out of exams, as well as relax and share your talents with one another,” says Gianni, who couldn’t resist taking part again after an enjoyable experience in last year’s ‘Glame’. He adds that it’s a must before graduating and Becky seems to be in perfect agreement.

“This production has finally given me the opportunity to truly experience student life to the full, adding some excitement to what can become a monotonous daily routine,” says Becky. She feels it’s important to take part in extracurricular activities in order to meet new people and to have a more enriching and rewarding experience as a university student.

That said, putting up a show like #LionKink isn’t all fun and games. Though it has the potential to be a great spectacle, it is only possible with a lot of hard work, long hours and a high level of commitment from all the cast and crew, and edicated producers Zoe Farrugia and Ryan Grech, vocal coach Chantelle Micallef Grimaud, and choreographers Ursula Farrugia, Nicole Schembri and Sharon Sciortino are doing all they can to make the show successful.

Ultimately, what is so special about Students’ Fest is that it is produced entirely by students. What an audience member experiences is a result of the hard work and enthusiasm of university students whose ambition can only be admired. Becky sums it up succinctly:  “Watching a bunch of young people, some of whom have never set foot on stage before, singing, dancing and having a whale of a time is bound to make you leave the theatre with a swing in your step and a smile on your face!”

Performances run from Friday 12th to Sunday 14th April at Sir Temi Zammit Hall. For tickets visit ticketline.com.mt 

 

 

Posted in Culture, News, Theatre

Tragedy Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight!

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With Comedy Tonight around the corner, Vikesh Godhwani talks to artistic director, anthony bezzina, about this upcoming musical comedy show that’s sure to be another hit to add to Masquerade’s great track record.

What can we expect from a show like Comedy Tonight

A fun-filled evening consisting of some of the funniest songs from musicals – some pretty well-known and some exciting new ones, interpreted by our 4 main singers – Rachel Fabri, Roger Tirazona, Dorothy Bezzina & Joseph Zammit,  and guest performers Ludwig Galea, Katherine Brown and Nadia Vella, with a 20 odd strong ensemble.  There will also be a few comedy sketches by Steve Hili and Katherine Brown.  The evening will be laced together by Malcolm Galea’s wit. Most of the show will consist of some fun, well-known songs from popular musicals such as Kiss Me Kate, Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Miserables, Rocky Horror Show, Little Shop of Horrors, and other hilarious numbers that might be lesser-known but will still have the audience in stitches.

 Your last musical concert, Simply Webber was quite a success, showing that people tend to enjoy musical numbers. What do you think is the factor that keeps people coming back to these types of shows?

People enjoy listening to songs that they are familiar with – songs they love to let their hair down and sing along to.  If you give the audience a good product they will come back for more.  Comedy Tonight is an advance on Simply Webber.

You have directed small plays, musicals, pantos, musical concerts etc. How is your approach different to these different types of shows? What do you find most appealing about directing a show like Comedy Tonight?

In this type of show it’s our cast who are the stars be it the main performers and the ensemble.  Seeing some of our youngsters work hard and achieve so much gives me great pleasure.  It ensures continuity for Masquerade.  My approach to this type of show is very different of course, but it is still a production where a certain amount of work is involved.

Comedy Tonight is starring  Rachel Fabri, Roger Tirazona, Dorothy Bezzina and Joseph Zammit; four performers that you work with time and time again. What do you enjoy most about working with these performers? What qualities are necessary in a performer for you to keep wanting to work with them?

If you get a good mix of ‘known’ quality and new up-and-coming talent it is a great formula!  It is good to see such people wanting to do this too.  We are like one big family at Masquerade.  We have launched people like Rachel Fabri, and Nadia Vella at a very early age (they were our two Annies 16 years ago).  Then we have Joseph who has only started a few years back but is very promising.  We have a cast who can deliver and are willing to give their all, so why not?

Your last production, the pantomime The Curse of Snow White was at the Manoel theatre and now Comedy Tonight is also at the Manoel.  What do you think makes the Manoel theatre such a special place to stage shows in?

I love the Manoel Theatre, our National Theatre, it’s a treasure!   I have worked there for decades – there is something special about it.  I do hope that it does not become too clinical as people move from using this space.

Ultimately, why should people watch Comedy Tonight? 

Hopefully to be entertained and to feel good after the show.  If they enjoy musicals and a good laugh, then they are in for a real treat!  This show should appeal to the young and young at heart!

Any exclusive details about what’s next for Masquerade?

We have loads planned but to mention but a few we have a performance-in-production of a relatively unknown comic musical Lucky Stiff planned for Blue Box – our new theatre space at M Space, followed by our highly successful Summer Experience and of course The Masquerade pantomime at the Manoel!

Comedy Tonight will be staged at the Manoel Theatre on Friday 12th, Saturday 13th, Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st April. Tickets may be purchased from the Manoel Theatre box office, or through calling 21246389 or online on www.teatrumanoel.com.mt   

 

 

Posted in Culture, News, Theatre