The Malta Independent 26 March 2019, Tuesday

‘Lore Of the Seas’

Malta Independent Friday, 9 September 2011, 00:00 Last update: about 7 years ago

● Before a ship left harbour its captain made it a point to buy some flowers to bless his vessel. Women from the Maltese countryside used purposely to walk to Valletta to sell these flowers to the numerous ships in port.

This is one of the stories that inspired Jimmy Grima and the Rubberbodies collective, together with Liam Gauci, curator of the Malta Maritime Museum, to devise Lore of The Seas, a new visual performance at the museum. The two young cultural leaders are threading new grounds of collaboration between theatre practice and museum curatorship that not only brings to life the immemorial stories of our seas but challenges museums and theatre makers to exchange practices and explore innovative ideas. Toni Attard (Creative Economy) discusses this collaboration with Jimmy and Liam.

As a theatre practitioner, how do you perceive the visitor experience in Maltese museums and what’s the take of the curator as a member of the theatre audience?

JG: Surrounded by a rich historical context, it is disappointing to see a lack of appreciation towards a culture which links us to our ancestors. There are numerous sites and museums which through work and passion can be transformed into cultural spots which would attract larger audiences. This has been inspiring to us and through our work, especially through this project, we hope to create new experiences inspired by our history.

LG: As a curator one always strives to make the knowledge which is housed in the museum more accessible to the public. This project has fused Jimmy’s and my ideas together. Finding myself immersed inside the world of theatre has helped me understand the endless ways through which theatrical expression can contribute to curatorship and the visitor experience.

What led to this collaboration and how did you go about it?

JG: I met Liam in the beginning of the creation of White Sea and after numerous conversations we discovered the richness of stories and memories of the sea stored at the Maritime Museum. We were inspired by Liam’s passion and knowledge of the subject and this time our collaboration led to research within the museum space. We want the audience to participate in our research process and therefore we decided to organise a tour, led by Liam, who will guide the audience through a journey of memories and stories while bringing St Angelo’s Hall, the artefacts and stories to life with a visual performance created by the collective.

LG: I was aware of the Rubberbodies collective when they performed at Dock One. I had read about the performance and was intrigued about what the collective wanted to achieve. However, I only got to meet Jimmy a few months later during a three day cultural leadership seminar. When we later met to discuss possible collaborations between the collective and the museum it really felt we could create something unique for both sets of audiences.

This work will engage the audience in a visual and historical voyage based on fictional stories inspired by the artefacts found in the museum’s collection. As a new creative experience for both the collective and the museum, has this collaboration changed the way in which you devise your work or present the visitor experience?

JG: As a collective we have developed a devising method which brings together the different disciplines and ideas we work with. Working in the museum has not changed the method we use to structure a performance. We believe that openness allows new ways of creating and of developing the collective’s work. Therefore, we approach each experience, whether working in a theatre or in a historical location, with curiosity and openness towards the subject and the space. This experience has allowed the collective to be more connected to the research and we are aiming to bring to life the tangible and the non-physical stories lurking behind the museum walls.

LG: The collective pushed my research to a new level. While discussing the ideas with the whole group, their questions made me search even deeper into the stories behind the artefacts at the museum. It was obvious from the start that the human stories had to form an essential part of the performance. During our discussion it became clear to me that Rubberbodies was essentially the first visitor of Immemorial Waters, a project I’m developing to bring our maritime history to life. The performance will have a solid historic background, which will then be set loose on stage, although you cannot actually define it as a stage, since there’s no distinction between spaces.

How do you think theatre buffs, maritime history fans and all those interested in an innovative and unique night out will react to this project?

JG: We are very excited about this project and curious about how the audience will experience our new work. We are aware that we are uniting two different audiences, while linking history and contemporary though an innovative venture.

LG: In undertaking such a project the museum is potentially opening up to non-museum visitors. However, our regular visitors have the opportunity to experience something new and different while viewing new artefacts which have never been taken out of the reserve collection. There’s also an extra treat for all patrons who after the performance will be invited for drinks on the veranda overlooking the Grand Harbour.

Are you planning future collaborations with other creative practitioners or venues?

JG: We are fascinated by the rich Maltese history and context and I believe that this collaboration has introduced the collective to a new direction which can be explored in our future projects. We try to connect our work to the community, while working in different sites. This is the direction we are taking in the next year.

LG: Future collaborations are already in the pipeline and we believe that we can take this new experience to a whole new level, yet we do not want to get ahead of ourselves. We first want to dive into immemorial waters and after giving it our best shot we will see what the future holds!

9,10,11 September // Time: 8 pm // Price: 12 euros (10 euros) concessions for Heritage Malta members

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