For the 50th anniversary from the death of Ninu Cremona, Teatru Malta and The New Victorians reunited for a thrillingly patriotic co-production with FĊN to re-imagine Cremona’s classic Il-Fidwa Tal-Bdiewa (The Liberation of the Farmers). This play is one of Ninu Cremona’s finest works, and is a socio-political reflection on early 15th Century rural life in Malta. Composed and directed by The New Victorians, and adapted by Clare Azzopardi, this musical was a riveting multidisciplinary, audio-theatrical production designed to get the audience's adrenaline pumping, set to live music, and performed by a talented ensemble of artists at a very unique location.
The script adding youthfulness to the original eloquence
The story of the Maltese and Gozitan15th-century revolt against the feudal lord Gonsalvo Monroy had rather slippedmy mind. It wasn’t before I sat down to watch Teatru Malta’s Il-Fidwa tal-Bdiewa that Irecalled after so long this famous medieval event.
Ninu Cremona’s classic drama Il-Fidwa tal-Bdiewa, freely adapted bythe New Victorians and Clare Azzopardi for this Teatru Malta production in co-productionwith Fondazzjoni ĊelebrazzjonijietNazzjonali, commemorates the 50th anniversary from the death of the Gozitanliterary giant. The play took place on November 18-20, 25 and 26, with itsfinal show this evening at the Ximenes Redoubt, Salina Bay, Naxxar.
Il-Fidwatal-Bdiewa, translated by May Butcher in the 1960 Journal of the Faculty of Arts as The Ransom of the Peasants, is a dramaticpoem in five acts and a tableau by Cremona written in 1913 and first publishedin 1936. It is set in the period of the rule of Aragonese nobleman Monroy, whoserved as Count of Malta between 1421 and 1427 under the kingdom of Alfonso ofAragon.
The story takes viewers 500 years in the past whenthe then Maltese and Gozitan inhabitants suffered greatly under their newowner. They plot to rid themselves of this unjust ruler, barricading Monroy’swife Costanza in Fort St Angelo, or the Castrum Maris as it was known in theMiddle Ages, and deal with King Alfonso to let them buy back their land for30,000 florins.
TeatruMalta’s adaptation is set in two parts, with an interval in between andoriginal music throughout, played live by the New Victorians onstage.
The show featured actors Lee-N Abela, JacobPiccinino, Alex Weenink, Matthias Camilleri, Sean Briffa, Gianluca Mifsud,Chantelle Micallef Grimaud, Laura Buhagiar, Kay Micallef and Sara Gauci, whoplayed their parts expressively and energetically.
The New Victorians’ musical adaptation is perhapsthe play’s most successful feature – a melding of electronic and vocal prowessthat made the viewing extremely enjoyable and rather immersive.
The adaptation of the script by Azzopardi is also agreat success, paying due homage to Cremona while adding youthfulness to theoriginal eloquence.
The first part of the play started verypromisingly. The setting is idyllic and emotionally resonant, introducing us tothe farmer Matti (Jacob Piccinino) and his connection to the earth. Brightcolours and childlike innocence abound; a playfulness drifts amid thecharacters as their trials become apparent, though a lack of rain and brutaltaxes do not dampen the joyousness surrounding Matti’s daughter’s upcomingwedding.
As the need to revolt becomes more pronounced,Matti begins to despair. To gather the 30,000 florins needed to take back theirland, everyone must give everything they own.
The most striking moment of the play came at theend of this first part when audiences are given a glimpse of what would havebeen a wedding full of warmth and joy juxtaposed quickly after with the dreadand pain of farmers parting with everything they own.
The moment showed with poignancy the difficulty ofreconciling principles with happiness – to do the right thing is often painfuland disquieting; to do nothing comes with ease.
The second part of the play did not strike me ashaving the balance of the first. Starting off well in the beginning, showingthe dissatisfaction of the farmers suffering stagnation, the more dramaticscenes that followed struck me as short and overstimulating.
Behind the scenes