As Adrian Buckle’s new play, Unintended, prepares for its premiere next month, Jo Caruana chats to British actress Joyia Fitch, who’ll be flying down to join this pioneering production.
Most creatives will tell you they’re constantly looking for their next hit. For an actor, one play leads to another, while a producer is already on the hunt for their next production while still working on the first. This is very true of Unifaun’s well-known artistic director Adrian Buckle, whose past plays have pushed boundaries and also helped him make a name for himself as a producer.
Now, though, he’s taken steps into the world of playwriting and has unveiled Unintended – which he himself admits is a “return to form for Unifaun”. He says “we are producing a drama that pushes the envelope and that will create discussion.”
The result will certainly excite fans of the company. Buckle’s play is an original, no-holds-barred-script that revolves around four characters. Jamie, who is in love with Lily-Anne, has arrived at her house in preparation to take her to the prom. Lily-Anne, a confident and cocky girl, teases him but then proceeds to reassure him of her interest in him. Meanwhile, Lily-Anne’s parents, Martin and Diana, arrive, and Lily-Anne goes to change. What follows is Jamie’s, or any prospective boyfriend’s, worst nightmare. Taboos are broken and harsh brutality ensues.
Taking on the challenging role of Diana is British actress Joyia Fitch, who is currently in Malta rehearsing for the piece. Fitch began acting with The Redgrave Youth Theatre in Surrey as a child. She then completed a BA (Hons) in Fine Art with a focus on Performance Art at UCA and has since been acting, assistant directing, casting and crewing in British TV, film and theatre.
She’s been busy too, with credits including Trilogy at the Barbican and Messiah for the English National Opera, as well as roles on screen in Eastenders, Unforgotten, Bright Star and The Last Hangman.
But her life hasn’t all been theatrical; most recently she taught English in South Korea, travelled in Thailand and Nepal, and gained a Hatha Yoga Teacher Certificate in Bali. While in Bali she spent time in a spiritual community and documented her experiences, which are now providing the inspiration for her upcoming one-woman show, Butter.
So what drew her to Buckle’s admittedly controversial work?
“Well, if I come across a creative project which is a bit risky I am more likely to run towards it than run away from it,” she smiles.
In all the strangeness of the script, it is also funny. There are some astute and very clever lines
“This is what happened when Adrian sent me the script and we spoke a lot about it in our initial contact. I was very intrigued and inspired. The relationship dynamics in this play are very unsettled and detached, and I was drawn to exploring the specifics of that.
“Besides, travelling and performing provides the perfect balance for me, so I feel quite spoilt by this opportunity. I love London dearly but I think it is healthy to escape for a bit, so I’m often getting on a plane to somewhere.”
The actress will play the role of Diana, who, although the ‘mother and wife’, doesn’t really fit into the expected definition of those terms. In fact, the character is quite a wild one and, starkly different to Fitch herself, borders on the dark side quite significantly.
“She’s demanding, impulsive, racy, blunt and gets what she wants,” Joyia explains. “Even when a character has sides to them that shake me up as an actor, I have to seek the root of the reason they are the way they are, and find compassion for them.”
She believes that every character, like every human, has vulnerabilities even if they are hidden. It is these complexities that make them relatable to the audience. “I love her strength but she goes to extremes and takes disturbing actions that I would never take in real life. In that sense there is a lot of freedom there as an actress; I get to throw caution to the wind and rock the boat of usual conceptions. She’s definitely a fun challenge to play,” she details.
Joyia says she was drawn to Buckle’s script thanks to its pace, constant twists and brilliant scramble moments. She also finds it inspiring to see what she calls “in yer face” style theatre being produced internationally, and believes the piece definitely pushes boundaries.
“I think Adrian has done a great job in conveying his complex story, and highlighting the kinetics between the older and younger generations. In all the strangeness of the script, it is also funny. There are some astute and very clever lines. I love its confrontational nature and look forward to breathing life into it. There are also some really gorgeous moments of deep human connection.”
When it comes to the audience’s reaction, Joyia says she’s looking forward to finding out what they think. After all, she does have moments in the play that are daring, but she sees that as her chance to dive in and make those aspects of humanity real.
“I can’t say too much else or I’ll start to give things away!” she smiles. “But I know I’m looking forward to acting alongside some of Malta’s great talent, including Mikhail Basmadjian, who plays my husband.”
She stresses that the younger actors are fantastic too, including Mariele Zammit, who plays her daughter, and Stephen Mintoff, with whom she shares some provocative scenes.
“Our director, Stephen, has added some great elements to the show that I wasn’t expecting and I feel very secure under his direction. I’ve also just visited the space and I love the feel and intimacy of the St James Cavalier Theatre at Spazju Kreattiv. I love the fact we will perform in an old fortress; that’s not an everyday occurrence!
“Finally, I am already loving my time in Malta – it’s very calm; I love the pace of life and I feel very welcome.”
Unintended takes placetoday and on February 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18 and 19 at Spazju Kreattiv, St James Cavalier, Valletta.
Tickets are available online.
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