Samuel has been to several pantos, but being blind, he has not always been able to follow all that was going on.
This year the tables have turned. He will be the star of a panto – the first of its kind – where all the audience will start off on the same footing: none of them will be able to see anything.
Every person in the audience will have to rely on their other senses while in pitch darkness. The ‘magic’ will be taking place in a 3.5 by two metre cubicle in the adjacent room, where a cast of four actors will be performing some 30 different characters.
Despite its name – GawGaw a Panto in the Dark – it is not a horror performance. Script writers and directors Marta Vella and Vikesh Godhwani wanted to provide the audience not only with a completely new theatrical experience, but also a Maltese fairy tale that not many have heard of.
The story was inspired by and influenced by Samuel Farrugia, who lost his eyesight to cancer.
The 13-year-old provided the scriptwriters with a very detailed description of the GawGaw – a person who transforms into a monster and roams the streets terrorising people on Christmas Eve – which also happens to be his birthday.
“This is a world’s first panto in the dark that uses binaural technology, which creates a 3D stereo sound sensation for the listeners, making the spectators, who will have headphones on, feel as if they are in the same room with the performers,” Ms Vella noted.
“Except for people who are completely deaf, accessibility was not an afterthought, but the actual starting point of our panto. We wanted everyone to be on a level playing field.”
Most of the time, people with visual impairment are provided with audio-descriptive performance. A narrator would explain what is happening on stage, meaning that the blind person sometimes misses out on the singing and dialogue.
For Samuel, who is keen on drama and theatre, this is a once in a lifetime experience for a 13-year-old. He hopes the panto in the dark becomes an annual feature so that people “can walk in the same shoes of a visually impaired person – if only for an hour”.
Teatru Malta’s final production for 2018 is being brought to life through the sound design of Mario Sammut. The cast includes Chucky Bartolo as Dame, Davinia Hamilton and Joseph Zammit.
Due to its specific nature, seating is very limited. GawGaw is supported by Esplora, Interactive Science Centre, the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability, Il-Premju tal-President, Arts Council Malta and the Local Enforcement System Agency.
Visit teatrumalta.org.mt for bookings and more information about evening shows and matinees.
Venue is fully accessible, guide dogs are welcome, buddies accompanying the visually impaired can go in for free and transport will be provided for the visually impaired to facilitate their trip to the theatre. For this to be arranged call Teatru Malta on 2122 0255.