St James Cavalier
It has to take a dedicated and impartial outsider’s perspective to shed some objective, if highly dramatised, light on a contentious subject.
Corruption, violence and politics have been complicit bedfellows from the start of post-war governance in Malta.
Dramatist and practitioner John Baraldi, who took up local residence a few years ago, wrote the script for Apotheosis based on his extensive research into Maltese politics from the 1950s onwards. He chose to cleverly combine the different phases in the narrative with composer Arvo Pärt’s Lamentate, originally written as a homage to Anish Kapoor’s sculpture Marsyas – based on the Greek myth of a man whose punishment was to be flayed alive for allowing his pride to challenge the god Apollo.
It is very fitting that a solo performance about the life of a fictional prime minister should be paralleled with that of a man whose arrogance and overconfidence transforms his originally positive qualities into contemptible ones.
The character in question is Dolores Boniface – in a great solo performance by Angele Galea. Surrounded by the detritus of her life, an ailing, wheelchair-bound old woman, contemplates her rise and fall in Maltese politics and admits that her over-reaching has made her enemies and distanced her from family and friends. What was commendable was the palpable change which the script and direction succeeded in affecting within the audience’s attitude towards a woman at first so promising.
While it is clearly commendable and aspirational, even now, to have female representation in local politics at such a high level, the play warns that a change in the gender of the people in charge alone does not imply that all outcomes will be positive. In fact, it serves as a warning that the way in which politics are conducted on the island is a corruptive force in itself and can taint anybody, even the most well-intentioned.
We have much to mend and even more to learn, but our mistakes alone do not seem to be enough of an eye-opener
Technically, Ms Galea had to navigate Adrian Mamo’s suggestive set – filled with the trash and hidden mementoes of her very full, nearly frenetic life – in a motorised wheelchair.
Coupled with Chris Gatt’s lighting design, this set-up and setting, in the intimacy of the theatre in the round at St James Cavalier, allowed her intense and long monologue, told to the audience through her retrospective narrative as an explanation of sorts, highlighting why she chose to conduct her life the way she did and lamenting her ascent to power because of the hidden manipulation and corruption which she both endured in her early political career, and later inflicted on others.
Marc Cabourdin’s direction ensured that Ms Galea’s interpretation didn’t falter – it was clear that both director and performer had a very strong understanding of the way Dolores’s character evolved over the years – her story is a retrospective one spanning decades and is a clear indication that pride comes before a fall.
Ms Galea’s timing – her pauses, her crescendo of lamentation as she goes over her regrets, is well paced and arresting.
It is highly admirable for an actor like Galea to take on such a demanding and intense role; and while Apotheosis does not make the easiest of viewing, its social message is clear: we have much to mend and even more to learn, but our mistakes alone do not seem to be enough of an eye-opener.
The highly poetic format of the production, interspersed as it is with video clips from historical events, mixed with fictionalised shots from the character’s life, only somewhat softens the heaviness of the theme and leaves the audience feeling troubled and uncomfortable.
Apotheosis is being staged at St James Cavalier on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8pm. Tickets may be obtained at https://ticketenginex.kreattivita.org
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