Ten years after it was originally supposed to be performed in Malta, Anthony Neilson’s controversial play Stitching will have its official debut tonight, on stage at the Manoel Theatre Studio Theatre. It will run for six performances over the course of this weekend and next.

Theatre fans and critics across Europe were shocked when, in 2008, Stitching was banned by the now-defunct Film and Classification Board. In the years since, producer Adrian Buckle took his fight all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, and won. The ban was overthrown earlier this year and rehearsals began again – still featuring the original cast of actors Pia Zammit and Mikhail Basmadjian.

You may end up finding the play shocking but not for the reasons you thought you would

Chris Gatt took on the role of direction once again. Speaking about the play, he says: “Coming back to a piece that has been 10 years in the making is quite a new experience – probably one shared more by people in the film world than in theatre.

“Our world thinks more in terms of four-to-six weeks before knocking it in the park for four-to-six shows, and there’s an end to it.”

He stresses that 10 years is a long time but that it can be a fruitful one.

“The original production was bolted together at a very high speed, presented as a ‘work in process’ in people’s living rooms; a guerrilla-style theatre created to drum up witnesses for a trial in Malta that we ultimately lost.

Pia ZammitPia Zammit

“This version of Stitching is more thought-through; darker, funnier and more tempered by experience. It is more honed and less improvised by the constraints of space and time. Yet it carries with it the same DNA that engaged its invited audiences the first time round: a piercing honesty and a fierce passion for life and love.”

Neilson’s play explores how the central couple, Stu and Abby, struggle to keep their relationship alive as they try to cope with the loss of their child.

Mikhail BasmadjianMikhail Basmadjian

 “There is no doubt this is not an easy play – but not perhaps for the reasons people imagine. In fact, a word of warning and a hint: this play is written to be purposely confusing until one realises that things are not always what they seem to be, and that life and the theatre is not always as linear and predictable as one imagines,” says Gatt.

“You may end up finding the play shocking but not for the reasons you thought you would.”

Stitching is being staged at the Manoel Theatre Studio Theatre tonight, tomorrow and on Sunday; and again on September 19, September 21 and September 23 at 9pm. Tickets may be obtained from the Manoel Theatre box office on 2124 6389 or from www.teatrumanoel.com.mt.


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