SULDAT ABJAD: Ħtija tiegħek. Ksirt ir-regolamenti. Għajjatt, bkejt u ttallabt. Fixkilt il-logħob u ħawwadt l-imħuh! Ħtija tiegħek! Kollox waqaf — minħabba fik!
SULDAT ISWED: Min jgħidlek li mhux se jkomplu? Qed jistennew is-sebħ...
SULDAT ABJAD: Il-floodlights — dawl artifiċjali — għaliex ma xegħlux il-floodlights jekk riedu jkomplu?
SULDAT ISWED: Ikomplu, issa tara. Qed jistennew żerniq ġdid — jaħsbu pjanijiet godda — strateġija biex jikkuntentaw lil kulħadd.
SULDAT ABJAD: Ma jistax ikun. Hemm ir-regolament, insejt?
SULDAT ISWED: Jibdluh.
SULDAT ABJAD: Tard wisq. Aktar tikber il-konfużjoni kieku. Kulħadd dara l-parti tiegħu. Taħseb li r-Rejiet, l-Irġejjen, l-Isqfijiet jew xiħadd mill-oħrajn li huwa aqwa minna lest icedi xiber poter... għalik? Minħabba fik? Le. M’hemmx tama. Ir-regolamenti ma jinbidlux minħabba xi ħadd bħalna.
SULDAT ISWED: Ikollhom issa imma! Jew jibdluhom jew il-Logħba ma titkompliex!
SULDAT ABJAD: Titkompla. Jew jibdew oħra. Imma r-regolamenti ma jinbidlux.
SULDAT ISWED: Kif jistgħu ma jinbidlux.?...
SULDAT ABJAD: Kif jistgħu jinbidlu?
SULDAT ISWED: Inġagħluhom aħna! Jekk inżommu iebes — jekk ħadd minna ma jiċċaqlaq minn hawn, nipparalizzaw kollox. Ikollhom jagħmlul-kontijiet miegħi — magħna lkoll! Ikollhom jagħtu kas tagħna did-darba!!
SULDAT ABJAD: Tagħkom min?
SULDAT ISWED: Aħna! Jien u int! U l-oħrajn kollha! Jien qed nissielet għad-drittijiet tagħna lkoll. Sakemm hawn jien il-Logħba ma titkompliex.
SULDAT ABJAD: Sakemm hawn int.
SULDAT ISWED: X’jiġifieri? Jien hawn se nibqa’. Nissielet sal-aħħar!
SULDAT ABJAD: Sakemm iħalluk.
SULDAT ISWED: Ikollhom iħalluni! Jagħmluli x’jagħmluli mhux se nħallihom idawruni.
SULDAT ABJAD: Lili żgur xejn ma jagħmluli. Jien m’għamilt xejn.
SULDAT ISWED: Iblah! Bik jagħmlu li jridu — kif dejjem għamlu. Bija le iżda. Urejthom xi nsarraf. Xejn ma jistgħu jagħmluli lili! Xejn li xejn.
Rewrites are by and large the more arduous, the more painful and the more time consuming labour that any writer has to face. It is true that there are times when a play just defies any attempt at tampering with. There are those plays which commit themselves to paper in a matter of days (sometimes a matter of hours) ( Satira – a case in point) but then there are the rest... The sober weeks, sometimes years, before one is willing to let go.
This long self revelation needs to be made if one is to better understand what the playwright’s position is vis a vis any and all to whom the script is finally passed on, in order to bring it to life. Once the author is eventually disposed off (with the good old pat in the back. hopefully), everyone settles down to the task of having to do what the author apparently has failed so miserably to do – that is reduce to physical, human terms, the intellectual maze from fairyland called a script dumped into the hands of the director, producer and cast.
What follows can either be an author’s worst nightmare or the glorious feeling of knowing that one has been twice-blessed – in the first instance, with a production which confirms to the playwright (once again!) that he is either a genius among fools, or a fool amidst a saner humanity, or else, the rare confirmation that one is not alone and that theatre is the only true reality.
Having said all this, how does one react to having a play like En Passant – (conceived entirely as a character play for radio with a limited cast of two) being torn apart and re-assembled as an aggressive high impact alternative theatre representation with a crew of some twenty performers at the director's disposition?
After seeing the final presentation of the result of this work at St James Cavalier last month, I found paradoxically enough I did not feel the slightest bit “betrayed”, or the least bit lessened as a playwright, by the liberties taken with the script. I had originally been asked by Mario Azzopardi to keep in mind the fact that he had to make as full use as possible of his troupe of actors, and also, that the ‘verbose” nature of the script needed tightening... A euphimism if ever there was one. Reducing an hour long a two-actor script for radio to some twenty minutes for stage is perhaps the most ruthless pruning that a writer can be asked to do. In this particular case, it proved to be a useful exercise – when all was said (or not said, but done), the rudimentary skeleton that was left was still I believe strong enough to carry the concept behind the play.
The play is based on the central metaphoric theme of two pawns caught in the grips of ruthless powers dictating their every move, The action is divided into seven parts - (seven moves, or seven stations of the cross: described as play in seven parts, a death and resurrection). To my mind En Passant always was wishfully associated to a composition for radio with a Brecthian skeleton and an (absurdist) Becketian soul. The change in medium naturally was the major challenge – the intimacy of the radio play, its ability to convey ideas and thoughts in a uniquely private manner to a listener’s head purely through the effect of the spoken words and additional sounds, must force the director to create the physical element and incorporate the physical element both of the participating actors and the space they occupy in real time, as opposed to the purely aural world of radio drama.
I believe Mario Azzopardi solved this by relying mostly on the Brechtian
exposition, leaving the “metaphysical” element, such as they might have
been, to the audience’s unconscious, or subconscious susceptibilities and
sensitivity. Not that the audience was allowed much time to get lost in
thought. The fast paced action, the constant clamour for attention by the
actors made sure of that. Mario Azzopardi introduced action (song and dance
suddenly appeared from nowhere) and sometimes even speech elements, which
however were strictly called for by script. For example, where the sound
effects directions in the play called for a reaction by the crowd, or the
playing of contemporary news item over the p.a. system, Azzopardi took full
advantage to “intrude” into the work, but basically applying a texture, a
forceful and highly delineated one at that, but still close enough to the
author’s intentions. Whereas the protestations and lamentations of the two
pawns held captive to the whims and dark schemes of the powers that be that
dictated their every move in the original play were of a generic nature,
Azzopardi brought them down to the here and now, the protestations of a
factory worker who is told when to use a toilet and when he cannot, the
jeers of a crowd who protest the opponents mental capacity and right to
choose to vote in a referendum for Europe.
Of course, here we have to tread carefully – what if the director manages to imply a vote against the European Union, while the playwright contemplates the exact opposite? Speaking from any artist’s point of view, be he the writer, director or actor, I believe that the original intent of the play should never be diverted. Fortunately enough, though we did diverge in form sometimes, the actual provocative approach adopted by the director and crew were in fact in close sync with what the script called for.