Clare Azzopardi is an award-winning writer who’s passion for the Maltese language has proved that Maltese works can attract wider audiences. Having devoted much of her time to promoting Maltese literature abroad, she has also had her own stories translated and published overseas. Yet, she admits that – if she could tell her younger self one thing – it would be to wait before publishing all the things she wrote.

Her upcoming play – the dark, humorous and eccentric Tebut Isfar – will be performed at the Valletta Campus Theatre, this October. So, before moving on to her next project – a libretto for a children’s opera ‘Il-Qtates ta’ Max-Xatt’ – she spoke to us, here at Living in Malta, about Tebut Isfar… because there’s more to theatre than just language.

How long have you been writing, and do you have a favourite genre?

My first books published with Merlin Publishers date back to the year 2000 and my favourite genre is prose, probably the short story. In fact, I’ve published two short story collections so far and, after Castillo (my first novel for adults), I guess I will start working on my third.

I must admit that, although it can be a lot of fun, writing for theatre is a big challenge. Unlike writing short stories or novels – which tends to be a solitary task – writing plays involves working with a collective, so the work evolves in a different way. Then there’s the added pleasure of seeing a play acquire new meanings as the performers and director develop it.

What is the inspiration behind your latest play, Tebut Isfar?

The main theme of the play is the gentrification of Valletta, but I also wanted to explore the arrogance of the Maltese business class, and how some exploit their strong ties to people in power. This results in a certain attitude, arrogance or impunity – ‘I can do whatever I want, because the powers that be are in my pocket’ – that sort of thing.

What are you most looking forward to about the performance of Tebut Isfar?

Since it’s a play that has four very strong and challenging characters, I really look forward to seeing the actors’ interpretation of them. I’m also happy to see more Maltese-language plays being performed locally, thanks to Teatru Malta and Unifaun Theatre Productions, among others.

Clare Azzopardi in Tebut Isfar

Do you think that expats in Malta would benefit from coming to see a play in Maltese?

Of course! It’s theatre, not just words… there’s much more to it. I’ve watched a lot of theatre in languages I don’t understand. One that stayed with me is a contemporary take on Faust, in Polish – the language mattered, but I still understood a lot from the mise-en-scene, the actors’ physicality, the images and rhythms they created.

A recurrent theme in Tebut Isfar is entrapment; the characters are thrown into situations where they are trapped and need to find a way out. From a theatrical perspective, this can be followed without necessarily catching all the nuances of the dialogue.

What do you hope audiences will take away with them from watching Tebut Isfar?

Theatre is special. That specific moment in that specific place in time can never be repeated. I hope that all those who come to see Tebut Isfar will take with them that very special moment. I also hope they’ll leave with a sense of pathos, perhaps even anger, rooted in the irony of what is portrayed.

Tebut Isfar will be performed at the Valleta Campus Theatre (ex MITP) in Valletta at 8pm over the weekends between 13 and 28 October 2018. For more information and tickets, visit www.unifauntheatre.com. Tebut Isfar is being staged by Unifaun Theatre Productions under the direction of Marcelle Teuma, and is supported by the MAF Project Fund of the Arts Council Malta.

Photos by Giola Cassar