Need for a Contemporary Theatre
In this our
neutral*, neutered, sterile nation,
at least as evidenced by
our theatres today.
The need for a contemporary theatre - which reflects a society that is
going through the rapid development which our society is going through today
- is so great that it is futile, puerile and simply a huge waste of time to
try to get into vague and irrelevant discussions about the form or shape
that this drama should take – a relevant drama which for a long time now,
has been deprived of the recognition it deserves – just as our (inexistent)
Maltese Theatre has been deprived of the support it deserves.
...Because we need a more particular theatre, a theatre with a more direct
This type of relevant drama is not at all a “comfortable” drama – in fact it
is decidedly uncomfortable, which perhaps explains the lack of support. It’s
a type of drama which does not guarantee its audience a final smile on the
And yet, if the audience does laugh, it is the of laughter that comes from
having to compensate for the bare, senseless panorama by which we are
surrounded, the laughter that seeks to escape the embarrassing scenes (of
our lives) that the audience is forced to assist to. Which is why there are
those who find it more comfortable to try and seek what a foreign stage, far
away from our shores, has to offer.
And yet, if needs be, we shouldn’t give a .... about what’s happening in the
well-established theatres of Europe or America. It is time we decided what
we ourselves should be doing. If we still want and prefer the comfort of
foreign dramatic stereotypes – which are indeed comfortable because they
just might interest us and provide some universal appeal, since we too are
part of the human race and yet they fail to appeal to us Maltese more
particularly – ... if we still seek this comfort, than we are still
languishing in the cultural inertia which we have always espoused.
Because we need a more particular theatre, a theatre with a more direct
appeal. And regardless of the craft and skill that foreign dramas offer,
they never have the direct bearing, nor the more focussed intent that is
needed to recreate the particular Maltese environment we inhabit – our
experience. They always fail to wake us out of the comfortable anaesthesia
of our teatrin, in order to discover the uncomfortable anxiety that a
contemporary theatre can offer.
It is wrong to believe that, simply because Malta is geographically small,
this inevitable means that the Maltese experience is therefore unable to
elicit a universal, relevant artistic expression. (Does this bear
The richness that is Malta and its ancient people lies beneath the strata
and sub-strata of our culture, a richness that has never been allowed to see
the light of day of the relevant Maltese Theatre.
For a writer who wants to commit himself to this endeavour, the prime
resources are already at hand, the horizons are limitless, the journey is at
But such a writer has to go it alone in our present environment.
(At least in this overcrowded land of ours, where everybody wants to know
where you’re going, and yet everybody assumes he knows where you’ve been...
and nobody cares to see you set off, in any case.)
In the meantime, we’d rather commit ourselves to discuss... what MIGHT be
done sometime who knows when (who cares anyway!). Until the day will come
when contemporary drama, the undiscovered new plays of today, end up getting
older and older, until they becomes History, even better, they becomes
FOLKLORE. And then maybe, they becomes comfortable (to stage). But by then,
the need for a contemporary theatre, which reflects a society that is going
through the rapid development which our society is going through today (bla
bla bla see above, first line, first paragraph...) by then, this need for a
contemporary, relevant theatre will remain, still, the subject of a
discussion, detached and separate from the life and history of this our
neutral, neutered and sterile nation. At least, as evidenced by our theatres
First Published as a postscript to the play
"U L-Anġlu Ħabbar..." 1995
* Written in 1995, this reference to neutrality has now been
effectively neutered by Malta's accession to the EU in 2004.