The author of a play being staged as part of the Valletta 2018 programme is boycotting performances of her own play in protest against the conduct of the chairman Jason Micallef.
Lizzie Eldridge’s play Friefet Bojod, which she describes as tackling “corruption and construction”, will premiere at Spazju Kreattiv in Valletta at the end of the month before touring Malta and Gozo until December under the banner of the European Capital of Culture.
But Ms Eldridge told The Sunday Times of Malta she would not be attending any of the performances, citing Mr Micallef’s “intolerable” comments about murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and his “ongoing attempts” to remove the makeshift memorial from the Great Siege monument in Valletta.
The playwright – also the author of two novels and a member of the campaign group Occupy Justice which has been active in maintaining the memorial – added that she was protesting the “steady hijacking” of the Valletta 2018 project by politicians, which she said had turned it into a “tragic farce”.
“I’ve tried to do everything in my power to resist what’s going on,” Ms Eldridge said. “One of those things was refusing to attend any V18 events, and I am now in the strange situation where I cannot attend the performances of my own play.”
Ms Eldridge highlighted the fact that calls for Mr Micallef’s resignation have been made by 250 international writers forming part of PEN International, as well as 72 MEPs and an open letter signed by more than 100 Maltese and Malta-based artists and writers.
“We’ve reached a point where the twin Capital of Culture [Leeuwarden in the Netherlands] is refusing to send official representatives, and yet he’s still there. It’s shameful, and I cannot be part of it,” she said.
While Ms Eldridge will not be present for performances of Friefet Bojod, for which she is not receiving payment, she said she was glad the play would go ahead regardless, describing it as a protest piece about many of the same issues she is now looking to highlight. “The first public reading took place just before the assassination [of Ms Caruana Galizia]. So there am I sitting on this piece about corruption, and suddenly the landscape hardened up,” she said.
“The play itself is one of the few pieces of drama this year that makes direct reference to what’s happening. It has something to say about what’s going on in Malta, which makes it doubly ironic that I can’t be there.”
Mr Micallef, the Valletta 2018 chairman, has come under fire internationally for his calls for the removal of the memorial and banners marking the journalist’s assassination, as well as a sarcastic reference to her final written words: “There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.”
Culture Minister Owen Bonnici travelled to Leeuwarden, which holds the title of European Capital of Culture along with Valletta, in July to meet with cultural authorities after they said they would be cutting official ties with Valletta 2018 until it distanced itself from the “offensive” comments.
Both Mr Micallef and Dr Bonnici said the comments were legitimate free speech.
Disclosure: This reporter was one of the signatories to the open letter by Maltese artists and writers referred to in the article.