In 1968, sociologists Robert K. Merton and Harriet Zuckerman coined the Matthew Effect of Accumulated Advantage, or the Matthew Effect. Based on the biblical parable of the talents in the Gospel of Matthew, the effect is sometimes summarised by the adage “the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer”.
Inspired by this principle is the Maltese proverb ‘il-ħmar il-magħkus idur għalih id-dubbien’ (the downtrodden ass is assaulted by flies). It is not surprising that this turn of phrase was heard emerging from the lips of Rita (Michela Farrugia), the protagonist of the play Ta’ Fuqha Senduqha.
Inspired by real-life accounts of poverty in Malta, Ta’ Fuqha Senduqha, staged at Spazju Kreattiv between October 14-15, 20-23, is an original play in Maltese penned by André Mangion and directed by Toni Attard. It tells the story of Rita, a young police officer recently fallen pregnant, as she navigates her way through life in ever direr straights.
It is clear that Mangion took great pains to imbue his script with authenticity. The narrative feels both natural and real – a view into how material depravation is not the result of some pathology or character deficiency, but often the result of conditions set in motion from the second we are born, a roll of the dice.
Presented convincingly and acutely by Farrugia, the play’s protagonist reflects the reality whereby one or more wrong decisions can cascade into destitution. Looking to start a life with her boyfriend Tyrone (Clint Chircop), she moves in with him in his illegally rented room, which despite its illegitimacy still costs him an arm and a leg.
It is clear that Mangion took great pains to imbue his script with authenticity. The narrative feels both natural and real
Since he is currently jobless, Ruth’s aunt Joyce (Josette Ciappara) tries to pull some strings to get him some employment, namely by invoking her party allegiance and her direct line to the minister’s ears.
Sadly, this could not come to fruition as he does not have a permanent residence. As Tyrone struggles to read the form he must fill out to apply for housing, he is told that he inexplicably needs an official address to be able to apply for this.
The non-linear nature of the narrative made for an interesting and captivating addition to an already strong plot. This, combined with the versatility and range of most of the actors onstage made for an engaging and emotional rendition.
Charles Sammut stands out particularly in this respect. Playing the roles of both Ruth’s father and her boss, each was rendered distinctive and imbued with credible idiosyncrasies.
The same can easily be said of Chircop, Ciappara and Sharon Bezzina, who each presented a well-rounded spate of characters.
The versatility extends also to the set design, encompassed by a table with a simple metal frame which transitioned into each scene with great ease. It stands in for everything from a wardrobe to a delivery chair very naturally.
There were scenes which packed great emotional resonance; the teddy bear scene here comes to mind as a rather moving moment in the play. There weren’t many dry eyes left in the theatre after that.
The play’s goal of drawing attention to the realities and complexities of poverty was accompanied by the practical aim of helping 150 people, including 75 families with 55 people, living in YMCA facilities through a food drive in collaboration with YMCA. The play does well at causing audiences to question their complacency in the face of poverty and examine what hypocrisies they may suffer from.
The last staging of Ta’ Fuqha Senduqha is taking place today at Spazju Kreattiv at 7pm.