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‘Writing Is A Strange Beast’: We Caught Up With One Of Malta’s Most Renowned Playwrights Ahead Of Her Historic Milestone

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Local playwright Simone Spiteri has been a prominent player in the Maltese theatre scene in the 21st Century. Actually, to call her a playwright wouldn’t being doing her work in the theatre justice (even though I just did); Simone is a playwright, actor, director, lecturer, an author and she is also the artistic director of local theatre group Dù Theatre.

The year 2019 marks quite a few milestones for Simone: it’s been 15 years since she set up Dù Theatre, and 10 years since her play Appuntamenti was first performed.

And while Appuntamenti wasn’t her first original piece to be performed, it was the “first major springboard to a lot of incredible things” she would go on to do afterwards.

Photo: DrooRizz Photography // Appuntamenti

Photo: DrooRizz Photography // Appuntamenti

This November, Appuntamenti will hit the stage once again, a decade after its premiere.

But that’s not all that November marks for Simone; on the weekend of the performance, Appuntamenti will be released as a printed script in a double-bill script alongside her most recent work, Repubblika Immakulata.

Back in April of this year, Repubblika Immakulata made waves because of its powerful reflection of Maltese society and masterful use of our native language.

The play revolves around core values, principles and motivations of Maltese individuals from all corners of the island. It deals with a situation that seems so far-fetched (a wedding, election and festa all on the same day) but is portrayed in a way that you feel like you’ve experienced it for yourself multiple times. Because of these two aspects, the play acts as an almost exact mirror-image of Malta’s current sociopolitical situation.

Photo: DrooRizz Photography // Repubblica Immakulata

Photo: DrooRizz Photography // Repubblica Immakulata

The publication of Maltese scripts is very few and far between, so to have two scripts published at one go is not something that Simone is treating lightly.

“This was a dream come true that I never really dared hope for because published play texts of Maltese plays are very rare here. It will be a very limited print run but the response to this has been incredible!”

Two of Simone’s plays have been published in the previously; Kjaroskur was published in 2012 as part of the Francis Ebejer prize winning system by the Arts Council at the time, and her translation of Harold Pinter’s Hothouse (Is-Serra )is part of an anthology of Pinter’s plays in Maltese, that was published by Teatru Malta last year.

The ‘ten-year gap’ between the two plays will be addressed in a foreword by Dr Marco Galea.

An expert in Maltese theatre and local practices and academics. The essay will look at how writing (both Simone’s and on a national level) and theatre practices have changed within in the last decade, and how the local theatre scene has developed in the interim.

Photo: DrooRizz Photography // Kjaroskur

Photo: DrooRizz Photography // Kjaroskur

Dù Theatre’s 15th year started with the performance of a new piece of work and will end with the reworking of an old one.

“We wanted to celebrate this year with a look back at what we have and where our new work is taking us but we sort of did it in reverse,” Simone said. “We started with a new piece and now we are closing the year with a celebration of a play that really changed everything for us as Dú and myself as a writer.”

“It’s also going to be super intimate event because I wanted to counter the epic scale of Repubblika Immakulata,” she continued. “I don’t think something along those lines so soon after would have worked anyway.”

But how has Appuntamenti changed since it was first performed?

“Textually, the play has not changed much,” Simone professes. “Certainly references have been diminished/increased in the rehearsal room (Facebook was non-existent in our discourse in 2009 for example!). What I feel has changed for me personally is that I am now an entire decade older, and I look at these people from a different lens completely. They still make perfect sense and I’m thrilled they survived the journey to what is definitely a different world now. However, I wrote (and played the youngest characters) as a twenty-something and now that I am in my thirties (and playing the mid-thirties character) I am more empathetic with the characters I really wasn’t ten years ago. It’s a really interesting process and we’ve been discussing this a lot in rehearsals.”

Simone has written around 10 original plays in both Maltese and English, and also recently published her first fiction work called Il-Vjaġġatauri taż-Żmien, the first book in her Il-Vinkulari series aimed at young readers.

“Make mistakes, it’s very important to make mistakes”

We asked Simone for some advice on writing and how to end up with multiple award-winning works, and this is what she had to say:

“Sit and start writing. Make mistakes, it’s very important to make mistakes. Be realistic, push the boundaries and don’t try to be liked or tick imaginary boxes or buzz words or whatever someone else expects you to write. Just be honest, the truth is often extremely uncomfortable but if that’s how it feels then that means that’s exactly what you should be writing about. The rest will usually fall into place with time and experience.

Successful pieces are obviously an incredible experience, but so is reflecting on a piece you feel needed more of something. Writing is a strange beast, you can’t really teach it, I think, but you can develop, mentor and see it flourish over time. It’s certainly not an overnight thing.”

Photo: Christine Joan Muscat-Azzopardi // Il-Marid Immaġinarju

Photo: Christine Joan Muscat-Azzopardi // Il-Marid Immaġinarju

Żewġ Drammi is available for pre-order right now, and will go on sale on the 1st of November.

You can pre-order your copy here, or pick one up that weekend at the performances of Appuntamenti. Simone will be signing books and hanging around for a glass of wine and answering some questions after each performance, so be sure to book your tickets. And book them soon, because only 50 are being sold per night, and they’re going fast.

The publication of Repubblika Immakulata and Appuntamenti is made possible by the National Book Council’s Book Fund 2018-2019 and Merlin Publishers.

Tag a friend who needs to watch Appuntamenti

READ NEXT: A Very Brief (But At The Same Time Quite Detailed) History Of Theatre In Malta

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