With a project renowned for bright young talent just round the corner, Esther Lafferty speaks with festival director REBECCA CAMILLERI to find out more.

Next weekend sees this year’s edition of the Trikki Trakki festival performances as roughly 100 students take to the stage at Blue Box, Msida.

Organised by Teatru Malta and supported by the ministry for education, Trikki Trakki is an outreach project that takes theatre right into the heart of schools across the country, exposing the students to the joy of Malta’s theatre scene, and then puts that joy and those schools centre-stage.

Now in its seventh year, next weekend’s performances for the public promise to be a treasure trove of bright young talent and enthusiasm.

“Every school in Malta and Gozo could apply to be part of the project,” festival director Rebecca Camilleri says.

“We then selected six schools to take part, each of which was assigned a professional director who is an active practitioner in the local theatre industry.

“These directors first met with their school before Christmas to brainstorm ideas for a show with the children and to elicit their suggestions. The students also had sessions in music production, light design, puppetry, scriptwriting, movement and voice training to give them a taster of some of the professional disciplines within the world of theatre. They began to consider the many processes that take place behind the scenes of a successful production in addition to the performance on stage.”

The students will put on adapted and original plays.The students will put on adapted and original plays.

Excitingly, whereas in previous years all the schools’ performances were generally adaptations of theatre classics, this year the festival opened the field up to give the children the freedom to take their show in whatever direction they choose.

Only two schools this year have chosen to base their show on a classic. Immaculate Conception School in Tarxien has decided to adapt its performance from the Greek classic Ceyx and Alcyone.

They are directed by Philip Leone Ganado, a director, actor and producer, and founder of WhatsTheirNames Theatre company.

Over in Pembroke, director Nicola Cuschieri, who has lots of experience in theatre and film, has been working with St Clare’s on a vibrant, playful adaptation of an old HP Lovecraft short story. Lovecraft was an American writer in the early 20th century who wrote fantastical science fiction. Their performance, in English, is called Memory.

Inspired by the 2023 film Wonka, students from the QSI International School in Attard have been working with up-and-coming actor, director and playwright Ben Abela, the youngest of the director team. It’s an adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with a local twist, which is likely to be magical and inventive.

St Nicholas in Rabat, under director Zoe Camilleri, have been developing an energetic movement-based piece that draws on the classic children’s story, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.  Zoe is a trained dancer and movement practitioner and has been encouraging students to use their bodies to tell a story and explore movement as a tool for expression.

The festival has an ethos of sustainability

The festival will feature lots of original music by Trikki Trakki music designer and producer Chris Vella.

“Chris has created music for four of the shows,” Camilleri says, “but in this one, the music has been especially important as the performance is underpinned by a 10-minute soundscape”.

“The festival has an ethos of sustainability,” she adds.

“For this reason, the sets are generally stripped back and minimalist. Wherever possible props, costume and set pieces have all been created from recycled and repurposed materials. A huge monster puppet for St Nicholas School’s performance, for example, has been entirely created from recycled textiles and other materials.”

Along with process-driven director Rochelle Gatt, students from Stella Maris College, Gżira have devised a bilingual piece involving puppetry inspired by a fun and playful story of a young boy, his grandma, and their relationship.

“Grandma is a puppet and the boys have really thrown themselves into it,” Camilleri says.

Students from six schools were selected to take part in the festival.Students from six schools were selected to take part in the festival.

“Rochelle has an interest in puppetry and an eye for detail and so it’s going to be a beautiful performance.”

Last but not least, and rather different from the rest, professional actor-cum-director Joseph Zammit is working with St Albert the Great College in Valletta on an original script in Maltese about the state of Malta and their concerns about the environment and other issues in the world today.

“It’s completely developed from the youngsters’ ideas and it’s pretty intense and thought-provoking,” Camilleri explains.

This coming week the students will rehearse at M Space and take part in make-up workshops, having final costume fittings and sort out any last-minute issues with their props with production designer Isabel Warrington and props master/maker Maxime Durand, ahead of a final technical rehearsal.

“The children have had so much fun and been so engaged and committed over the last few months,” grins Camilleri, “but although a huge amount of work and planning has gone into the schools’ performances already, this coming week it will all come together. I can’t wait to see how the final shows work out.”

All six performances – with surtitles in both English and Maltese, translations by Simone Spiteri – will then be staged together on Friday for a school audience, and next weekend for the public (March 16 and 17 at 6.30pm and 10am respectively). Presented together, each short piece lasts for 15-20 minutes, and the whole show will run for approximately two hours, including the interval.

For more information and tickets, visit teatrumalta.org.mt/ trikki-trakki.

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