What women know ... the play follows what happens when six Maltese women lie to their husbands and secretly meet in an abandond chapel to conduct a ritual. This play is about 6 young women who come from different backgrounds and yet have a special bond. They gave birth in the same hospital one year before and come together to engage in an activity which strays from the commonly accepted kind of entertainment that stereotypical Maltese women are expected to indulge in. Produced by Mario Philip Azzopardi and directed by Marcelle Teuma. The actors were: Marta Vella, Magda Van Kullenberg, Maria Cutajar, Marilù Vella, Sharon Bezzina, Coryse Borg, Cladio Carta and Chris Degiorgio.
What exactly does it mean to be a Maltese woman in 2013?
What exactly does it mean to be a Maltese woman in 2013? With this in mind, Jo Caruana chats to playwright Clare Azzopardi ahead of the premiere of her new play In-Nisa Maltin Jafu Kif.
There’s nothing straightforward about being a woman in 2013.
On the one hand, it’s pay gaps, sexist comments and the never-ending tug-of-war between career and motherhood. On the other – in Europe anyway – we’re finally being given the opportunities that past generations could only dream of.
As a result, women are probably more complex than ever, and it’s exactly this line of thought which inspired author and playwright Clare Azzopardi to pen her latest work, In-Nisa Maltin Jafu Kif.
“Lately I’ve found that lots of my protagonists have been women,” she says with a smile. “I’ve just published Frejp with Merlin Publishers, and that’s got two young female protagonists. I’m also working on a series of short stories that are all about women and which give very distinctive voices to women who are very different from one another.
“Meanwhile, I’m even working on a novel that features three women. So I guess it’s women and their stories that are my main source of inspiration at the moment: women in relation to themselves, their children, other women, men, their mothers, their bodies and beyond.”
Azzopardi explains that she took the play on precisely because Fondazzjoni Avventura asked her to write about the contemporary Maltese woman.
“I remember quite distinctly that I told Mario Philip Azzopardi I was currently only interested in writing about women. To which he replied: ‘Perfect, it’s women I wanted you to write about.’
“Of course, the women in this play aren’t there because I needed a high quota in my script. They are there because I wanted them to have all the space and all the words to themselves.
“The men are present too. Insofar as they are physically absent, they are woven into these women’s experiences, for better or worse. And insofar as they are physically present, they are sexual objects.”
The play follows what happens when six Maltese women lie to their husbands and secretly meet in an abandoned chapel to conduct a ritual.
It involves costumes which are used in Good Friday pageants among other things, as well as a brilliant twist.
Having written a huge variety of texts, including the award-winning Il-Linja Ħadra, Azzopardi is known for crafting intricate characters and exciting plots. She also likes to set her audiences thinking.
“Why write a play if it doesn’t provoke?” she asks adamantly.
“This country presents enough events that treat their audience as passive receptacles – take the recent mass meetings, or Sunday Mass. Maltese punters go through plenty of moments in life when all they do is listen without being stirred or provoked.
“As far as I’m concerned, a play needs to provoke, otherwise it’s not a play. But what this one doesn’t do is provoke or shock by resorting to verbal obscenity. From what I can see, it has become very easy for an author to resort to obscenity in order to get a reaction, but obscene language is cheap. This isn’t that kind of play.”
Touting itself as a theatrical experience, the show invites its audience to look at six women in a room.
“They are six women who gave birth roughly at the same time and six women who are very different from one another,” Azzopardi continues.
“A lawyer, homemaker, teacher, factory worker... they’re all waiting for something or someone.
“If this was everyday life, you’d notice the obvious differences: maybe one is fatter than the other, or one is blonde; and one looks dowdy, while the other is elegantly dressed.
“You’d see nothing else unless you knew these women or started talking to them. But of course, this is theatre, so what we’ve got is realistic characters who suddenly change and become something altogether different – that is what makes this a theatrical experience for me.”
Backing up the script, some of Malta’s finest female talent will be taking on the roles, including Marta Vella, Magda Van Kullenburg, Maria Cutajar, Marilù Vella, Sharon Bezzina and Coryse Borg.
Claudio Carta and Chris Degiorgio, meanwhile, are daring to throw some testosterone into the mix, while Marcelle Teuma is directing.
“Written by a woman and directed by a woman, the play features six extraordinary women playing their parts... the experience is working out pretty well,” Azzopardi grins.