The real story behind the Masked Lady

Ritratt: Elisa Von Brockdorff

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Following the unprecedented public reaction to a series of string appearances by a masked woman now dubbed the ‘Doll-Smasher of Żebbuġ’, Teatru Malta would like to remind everyone that this was in fact, part of a series of street performances that were announced in their programme for 2019 just last January.

These street theatre performances, which have so far occurred in Zebbug, Marsaxlokk, Sliema and during the Gudja village feast, were part of a project called Min Hi?, being led by local artist Ruben Zahra, and inspired by a short story written by his father, house-hold name Trevor Zahra.

The purpose of these street performances being unannounced so far was by no means intended to be a publicity stunt. The intention was purely artistic and one directly related to the short story written by Trevor Zahra titled Gerita; one from a collection of short stories from his award winning publication Penumbra which describes the story of an unknown witch who travels from village to village.  In the story, Gerita appeared for the very first time on the eve of the village feast; chopping up dolls with a nougat knife as she covered them in tomato ketchup.’’

“When Ruben and I were planning Min Hi?, the script and the show were created simultaneously, making sure one bounced off and complemented the other seamlessly.  We hope that this will be a unique poetic experience of stylised macabre theatre, for everyone to enjoy,’’ says writer Trevor Zahra.

Photo credit: Maria Galea

In fact, the street installations were designed with all audiences in mind, despite popular assumption. These pop-up shows, although related, are in no way tied to the 12+ age recommendation of the final four performances, which are happening at the Rialto. The street installations will continue to run until the 12th of October with a final two set to take place on Tuesday 8th October in Valletta, in front of Pjazza Teatru Rjal, and in Birgu on Saturday 12th October during the highly-anticipated Birgu by Candlelight event.

These final two street installations were always intended to be the only two announced performances of the lot, which explains the silence thus far from Teatru Malta’s end. Director and composer of the show, Ruben Zahra said that “Different demographics are bound to react differently and while some will find it challenging, others will just as well find it appalling and perhaps controversial even’t. This is the sort of conversation that theatre is meant to spark – give people a subject and they’ll project their own fears and agendas onto it, it’s very interesting to see. The street performances would have lost all scope if they were announced’’.

Teatru Malta’s artistic director Sean Buhagiar states that “It was very interesting to see how street theatre became the subject of fake news on social media. History of theatre has shown that street theatre can be very effective in instigating human conversation, it is produced regularly by theatre companies all over the world’. It is also very present in our traditions, however it is was treated differently because of the common fear of the unknown. It’s our responsibility as the National Theatre company to take risks, and we strive to programme work which breaks new ground.   Buhagiar also confirms that ‘’ just because we’re risk takers doesn’t mean we don’t follow the rules, and that’s why all official authorization, permits and risk assessments were in place before each street performance. We now look forward to the shows at the Rialto’.”

Photo caption: Maria Galea

The Min Hi? project will reach its height during a haunting one-woman theatre production  on Thursday 31st October. The hour long theatre production will be staged at the spell-binding Rialto in Bormla. This will be the first time in several years that the art-deco cinema on the Cospicua sea-front, will be re-opening its doors to the general public for a professional theatre show.

Maltese actress Lee-N Abela, also known as the woman behind the now notorious mask, will take the floor and perform a series of obscure narratives in Maltese based on a variety of popular female characters throughout history. Soprano Nadia Vella will also be singing live throughout the performance.

Audiences can expect to see a number of beguiling scenes unfold before their very eyes, featuring music boxes, puppets, chandeliers, snails, dolls and other curiosities. Seating is limited and the production will premiere on Halloween night and runs between the 31st October and the 3rd November for four chilling nights only.

To book your tickets for Min Hi? visit kultura.mt or visit teatrumalta.org.mt for more information.

This content was supplied by Teatru Malta