Dik is-Siġra f’Nofs ta’ Triq, a Teatru Malta/Teatru Anon co-production for the Malta International Arts Festival started its life as a poem by Immanuel Mifsud, written especially for the production.
The play marks the first time the Malta International Arts Festival opened outside Valletta, this time on the MCAST campus grounds in Paola between June 16 to 18, 20 to 22 and 24 to 25.
It centres around a tree that may or may not have existed in a street both real and fictitious. We are told time and again to beware of the lies we are being told throughout, though aptly masked by song and dance and smoke and mirrors.
We begin to walk at 9pm to a stage on campus grounds. There we meet Il-Banda tal-Imqarbin (the baddies band) and the band conductor (Justin Galea). They narrate the piece through lewd gestures and general mischief.
The whole score was written by Albert Garzia who also played several instruments throughout together with Tatjana Chircop on violin and contrabass and Raquel Sammut on drums.
Il-Mara li Toħlom Tgħajjat (the woman who dreams aloud, Charlotte Grech) makes her first appearance here, ghostly and serious.
“It-tfal qiegħdin jitkemmxu, kull żagħżugħ qiegħed jixjieħ (the children are getting wrinkly, every youth is getting old),” she tells us solemnly, in contrast with the band’s childlike exuberance.
We then walk to the second stage. An imposing tree (Paul Portelli) stands at the centre, Il-Mara li Toħlom Tgħajjat by his side.
It-Tifel (the boy) − a set of four characters led by Jamie Cardona − comes out to greet us. They appear like a group of lost boys, seemingly safe in the knowledge that they needn’t grow up. They laugh and taunt and play as they tell us about the “triq li ma jaf biha ħadd (the street no one knows about)”.
They introduce us mockingly to Is-Suldat ta’ Mitt Midalja (the soldier with a hundred medals, Pierre Stafrace) with his inflated sense of self and manhood and wavering allegiances, and Antida, Il-Mara taċ-Ċikkulata (the chocolate woman, Daniela Carabott Pawley) whom he visits along with many others in the street. Who doesn’t like chocolate, I suppose?
The play is replete with sub plots and interludes, one of the most striking of which came at the sight of the moon and the sun dancing together, bathed in light (designed by Christopher Gatt) showing both the gold and silver of the star-crossed celestial beings.
Perhaps we are not all to blame
Like the sun and moon, L-Għarajjes ta’ Bla Flus (the penniless couple, Matthias Camilleri and Sarah Vella) are likewise star-crossed, doomed by their finances into destitution.
The love story between Il-Mara li Toħlom Tgħajjat and Iz-Zopp li Qatt ma Jieqaf (the limp man who never stops, Portelli) is made fun of by It-Tifel; the scene comes in waves of sympathy and cynicism.
Along come Tittinu and Tittina − two sets of three characters cloaked to form two distinctive figures, faceless and at odds with one another, one wearing blue hair, the other red.
We exit the second stage to go to a final one close by where we meet the Dulċier (the confectioner, Galea) and his story of creation and loss only to return to the second stage to find the once vibrant tree stripped and mutilated.
The tree is eventually felled, inevitably, senselessly. The villagers sing a requiem: “Is-siġra jkollha tmur. Inneħħuha biex nagħmlu progress. Ir-rota tibqa’ ddur.”
But not to worry, we are told (tagħmlux dwejjaq). The tree was on its feet again the next day.
The play, full of magic and mischief, served to draw our eyes to the lies we tell ourselves about what we value and how little we are prepared to do to safeguard what is right.
“Din hija triq mimlija gideb (this is a street full of lies),” says it-Tifel.
This production tells us straightforwardly that we are all liars, complacent and tongue-tied, but perhaps we are not all to blame. Sometimes a liar is made so because he has been made to believe untruths, are there are plenty of untruths going round these days.
The three stages designed by Jennings Falzon were visually compelling and housed surprising figures drawing our eyes to all corners of the venue, as did the costumes designed by Liliana Portelli. Mifsud’s poetry made for a luminous bedrock which spurred a greatly successful production.
Due to popular demand, the show has been extended till July 2. Buy tickets for shows happening on June 25, 28-30 and July 1-2 here.