Fans of Malcolm Galea are in for a treat this Christmas – the veteran comedian has written and directed this year’s panto Jack and the Beanstalk, and he is even taking on the hilarious role of the Narrator. He tells Jo Caruana about why he’s thrilled to be part of the MADC’s longstanding festive tradition.

Malcolm Galea is one funny guy. From delighting fans on TV screens and over the airways, to writing pieces of theatre that have audiences in stitches, he has proved he knows a thing or two about making us laugh – and we love him for it. As a result, fans of Galea’s winning formula are flocking to the MFCC in Ta’ Qali this Christmas to watch him lead the very talented team in this year’s pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, alongside other top comedy actors including Michael Mangion (as the fabulous Dame), Matthew Ben Attard, Katherine Brown, Joe Depasquale, Christina Despott, Rachel Tedesco Triccas, Audrey Scerri and Sean Briffa.

“Jack and the Beanstalk is my 10th panto script and the third one I’m directing for the MADC,” say Galea. “I really enjoy every aspect of pantomime and the opportunity to direct a show for the MADC is hard to pass up. I’ve been involved with the club for about 20 years and, as with many local theatre practitioners, I got my start there.”

Galea says that now that he’s a “bona-fide grown up” he enjoys panto in different ways than he used to. For instance, he no longer goes out with the cast after re­hearsals and performances until the early hours, as his children don’t allow him to sleep in until noon to make up for the lost sleep.

“Instead, I enjoy seeing the show come together, the cast getting stronger onstage, and the camaraderie between the team members. Every year a tight-knit and ever-so-slightly dysfunctional fami­ly is formed that will dissolve im­mediately after the cast party – never to be reformed in quite the same way ever again. The MADC has a really great team of people working with full enthusiasm and it’s just as much fun behind the scenes as it is onstage.”

The club is very close to selling its one millionth panto ticket after 40 years… whoever buys the lucky ticket will be richly rewarded

Galea can trace his love for panto back to when he was just 19. “I wasn’t raised watching panto (unlike my own sons who practically live in the theatre),” he explains. “My first memories are of Jean Pierre Busuttil as Dennis il-Pastizzar and of John Montanaro as the Prince being mocked as a ‘rude ħamallu baxx’ in Rapunzel (MADC 1998).

“I love the combination of English and Maltese to describe unique things and situations. Similarly, this year I have our Dame referring to her son Jack as a world-class tronġa. I’d like to think that, one day in the near future, some adult will look back on their own first panto experience and picture the entire scene. That’s all a panto-writer can ever really ask for.”

As for what goes into writing and directing this mammoth production – one of the largest of the year – Galea says he relies on confidence, optimism and a calm demeanour. “Since I write my own script, I have a clear picture of how it’s going to look, having already mentally constructed the show line-by-line and moment-by-moment,” he says.

“Therefore much of my job is making sure the cast and crew get it. After that, I pretty much sit back and watch everyone have fun with it, offering guidance here and there if things veer off-track. I think it’s very important that everyone  has fun. When it comes to theatre, no result – however brilliant – is justified if everyone hated the process. When people enjoy and believe in what they’re doing, they give their absolute best.”

However – even though he loves everything about panto so much – Galea say he’ll actually be taking a break next year – making it even more imperative for fans to enjoy his unique breed of laughs this year.

“2019 will be my first year not doing panto since 2011, and while I’m looking forward to having time to work on projects I’ve been putting off for too long, I already know I’m going to miss it.

“At the same time, since with theatre you can never be too certain when your next gig is going to be, I’m going to make sure that Jack and the Beanstalk will be more than enough fun to tide me over until whenever I happen to do another pantomime.”

Finally, he has a little secret to share with prospective audiences. “The Club is very close to selling its one millionth panto ticket after 40 years of consecutive pantomimes, and it’s incredibly likely that it will happen during Jack and the Beanstalk. Whoever buys the lucky ticket will be richly rewarded. Maybe it will happen during the show you’ll be watching. Maybe… just maybe… it could be you!”

Tickets for Jack and the Beanstalk start from €10, with reduced rates for children aged 3-11. Children aged 2 and under can enter free with a toddler ticket but must have a reserved seat with parents/guardians.

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