From next Friday, February 16, Udjenza in collaboration with Spazju Kreattiv are presenting a new production, Is-Snin li Tħoss, which is a Maltese translation of the award-winning play Age is a Feeling.
The play was originally written by Haley McGee and nominated for an Olivier Award for an Outstanding Achievement last year, so it’s great to see it coming to Valletta.
“I first watched the show at the Edinburgh Fringe, mainly because the title made me curious,” explains director Toni Attard.
“However, of the dozens of shows I saw while there, this was the one I wanted to bring back to Malta.”
Attard said what struck him of the play at first was the rare beauty of the text and was amazed at the impact it had on him and the audience around him. The show is both factual – about life, relationships and age – yet entertaining; both raw and emotional yet funny and optimistic, he said, noting that this is a mix that can only be achieved on the stage.
“It’s a one-person show, and I could see it would be challenging from a performer’s point of view. I knew instantly that Clare Agius would be the perfect actor for this, in Maltese. The script has also been translated into Chinese, so we’re in good company,” he said.
The script was translated by writer Clare Azzopardi who was delighted to be involved, having written monologues for the stage herself and short stories centred around women in their 40s previously.
“In the text, a woman of 25 (who is wise beyond her years) sees her life ahead of her in a series of ‘snapshots’. The show is so universally relatable – on friendships, grief and hormones – I was able to stay very true to the original,” she comments.
The show is staged in an earthy timeless fashion that mirrors the play’s ‘straight-talking’ approach. Performed in the round in a small intimate space, Agius sits on a tall iron seat, reminiscent of a life-guard’s station. It rotates at the heart of the stage, surrounded by 12 large branches, each representing one of the 12 stories from her life.
“We are focusing on the power of traditional storytelling with a matter-of-fact delivery which is neither over-dramatic or over-emotional,” says Attard.
“From centre stage, Agius addresses the audience directly, and while it is her character’s life she is relating, with planned events, chance happenings and other anecdotes along the way, it could be yours. It’s everyone’s.”
Attard says the narrative is relevant whether you’re a woman or a man and whatever age one may be.
We are focusing on the power of traditional storytelling with a matter-of-fact delivery which is neither over-dramatic or over-emotional- Toni Attard
“It’s almost like a reality check. You think, ‘this is like me, looking back at my past and into my future’. Or perhaps someone has other things they want to achieve and can hear the clock ticking,” Attard adds.
While one focus is on fertility and the biological clock, another part of the script focuses on the love of the character’s life and includes her musings on sex.
“I found this refreshing because society often thinks about men having sex in old age but it is rarely mentioned in relation to older women,” says Azzopardi.
“Throughout the show, there’s also an underlying theme of how a woman’s body changes, in ways that aren’t often discussed, and so alongside love and loss, and laughter – there’s lots of laughter – there are moments of anger and sadness too.”
Azzopardi said he loved how little everyday details, such as denying yourself a croissant for the sake of the waistline, added up to a bigger picture. Ultimately, the show will leave audiences appreciative yet thoughtful, she said.
“Yes, the show is an emotional roller coaster of life from beginning to end,” continues Attard.
“It’s optimistic while also realistic. The audience follows the performer’s journey, with humour, sorrow, heartbreak and joy, as small elements of bodily change and deterioration intrude while we watch the growth of experience and mental strength.
“Agius has just the right balance of being soothing and engaging, honest and empathetic and she shares a joie de vivre with dry wit and wisdom. And there’ll be some surprises along the way.”
This show itself is surprising in that the script has 12 embedded stories of which the audience on any given night will only see six. At particular moments, Agius will offer the audience a set of cards and these determine what sections of life she performs next. Choices include, for example, ‘book’, ‘teeth’, ‘oyster’ and ‘bus’.
“This idea that only some of the life story is performed each night emphasises that no one can ever know the full details of another person’s life,” Attard says.
“It also means that no two shows will be the same which is perfect because there’s an element of surprise in everyone’s route through life: an exact future can never be mapped out.”
Is-Snin li Tħoss will be performed at the Spazju Kreattiv Theatre from February 16 till the 25. Tickets are available at www.kreattivita.org. This project is supported by Arts Council Malta and is an original Soho Theatre Production. For more information visit udjenza.com/shows/is-snin-li-thoss.