TAC Theatre, under the direction of Marc Cabourdin, performed Is It Me? at St James Cavalier last week. This was the second time TAC Theatre performed Is It Me? as it was produced at the Carmelite friary in Mdina with half the number of performers last year .
The different ambience and the increase in the number of performers from seven to 14 gave the project a different dynamic, so much so that people who watched it last year did not realise it was the same performance.
Is It Me? is a simple enough story and one we’ve heard, seen and lived with since the day we could walk.
When one bears in mind that Malta is an island with strong Catholic beliefs, one could safely say that the story of the Passion of Jesus Christ has become engrained in our very being.
Consequently, the question one might ask is why does one go to watch what one knows already. This is where the allurement of the poor theatre comes into play, making what is familiar and known, unfamiliar and new in its very presentation.
Thus the Passion of Christ becomes the vehicle of thought-provoking statements.
The message TAC Theatre wanted to convey was simple in words but rich in meaning, with the major key phrases being “Love your enemy” (Luke 6: 27- 36), the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 1- 12) and the forgiveness on the Cross (Luke 23:32-43).
These three fundamental truths were the foundation of the whole performance; however, Jesus was portrayed as a revolutionary and terrorist, a person to be feared for instilling new and radical ideas into people’s minds.
All 14 actors in Is It Me? delivered an impeccable performance throughout by using nothing but their self and their voice. I kept looking at individual actors at different times to evaluate their performance and could not find any fault.
Steffan Cheriet Busuttil cannot be commended enough for his interpretation of the radical Jesus. Wesley Ellul as Pilate, Alexandra Camilleri Warne as Procla, and Rachel Gatt as Mary were credible in their performance.
Pierre Stafrace (Caiaphas) and Joseph Zammit (Commander) portrayed the opposite ends of the same root of evil, fundamentalism in religion and politics.
I must confess that my heart melted on hearing Nadia Vella sing with an angelic voice which resonated and filled the intimate theatre at St James Cavalier, and the desire to hear more was not easily curbed.
Judas (Claudio Carta), Peter (Steve Hili), Simon (David Chircop) and the other disciples, Stephanie Pullicino, Sarah Naudi and Victor Bonnano portrayed different individual traits and characteristics, thus creating an element of controversy, confusion and a sense of uneasiness which did not allow the audience to actually feel that they could ‘enjoy’ the performance.
Nonetheless, the performers wanted the audience to be drawn into the event that was unfolding in the theatrical space.
Unfortunately, this is where I feel the performance fell short, through no fault of the director, Marc Cabourdin, who showed innovative ideas in creating the extraordinary out of the ordinary.
Nor can anyone point fingers at any of the actors who have shown a high level of commitment to the individual characters they represented.
Nevertheless, a strong sense of resistance could be felt, and the guilty party was the audience, which was not as accommodating in fulfilling the director’s expectation.
The director had hoped that the audience would “no longer be a passive onlooker but an active participant in the story”, yet when asked to hold hands the audience took its time to react and a sense of awkwardness and discomfort could be felt throughout.
Although I commend TAC Theatre for such a bold move towards an alternative theatre that is not afraid to challenge customs and habits that have been set in stone, I fear the road is an uphill struggle, yet one lives in hope.
Seeing that I too was part of the audience I could pose the question to myself and ask am I the resisting one; Is it me?