The Malta Independent 20 November 2018, Tuesday

The Fairy Tale Curse

Malta Independent Friday, 4 January 2013, 14:14 Last update: about 5 years ago

RACHEL FABRI and ANDRE AGIUS, young stars of the Masquerade pantomime ‘The Curse of Snow White’, being staged at the Manoel Theatre till Sunday, tell The Malta Independent about their exciting theatrical journey so far.

Where have we seen you and heard you so far?

RF – For the past few years I've mainly taken part in overseas concerts and productions (mainly in the UK, see box - Ed) but in Malta, the most recent productions I have been involved in were Simply Webber (Masquerade) as one of the four lead soloists in Movie Spectacular and as a soloist in Voices - Dream a Little Dream. You may have caught a few seconds of me singing in Arabic on screen in the recent movie The Devil's Double. I occasionally sing at various gigs with guitarist Kevin Spiteri and at weddings with pianist Veronique Vella or guitarist Andrew Camilleri.

AA – My stage debut was at age nine in the MADC one act play in Brokenville. I then took part in Masquerade’s 1565 the musical, Seussical the musical, The History boys and 13 the musical. I also took part in the London Shakespeare Workout Performance of When You Hear My Voice where I worked with prisoners from the Corradino Correctional Facility. I have taken part in three films: the French film Largo Winch, Agora and The Devils Double. Last year, Masquerade School for the Performing Arts awarded me the BOV Drama Award for achievement and dedication. I have also won Exhibition Awards two years running from Trinity College London for obtaining the highest distinction marks in my drama exams from all Mediterranean countries, most recently gaining the highest overall mark in all of Europe.

What part do you play in The Curse of Snow White?

RF – I’m Snow White, just turned 16 longing to find true love. She also desperately wishes to free herself from always having to do what other people tell her to do; she constantly has to obey her stepmother's orders and feels quite restricted. Somewhere along the storyline, she meets her true love but as the saying goes 'the course of true love never did run smooth'...

AA – This could be a tricky question, because my character is the twist in the story so I must try not to give away any valuable details. Let’s just say my character makes the traditional story of Snow White not so traditional.  What I can say is that I am the principal boy and I will be playing a vampire prince but I can’t really tell you much more than that.

What made you decide to start acting?

RF – My mum was a ballerina/ ballet teacher so I was integrated into the musical scene from a very young age. I have quite a few musical people in my family too. I started attending piano lessons at my aunt Edwige Sapienza and ballet lessons with my mother. I was (and still am) obsessed with Disney cartoons and would sing along to all the songs by age two. I'd memorise films like Annie, Oliver and many others. Since my debut in the MADC’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at age eight I’ve never looked back. 

AA – It was actually my mother’s decision, so in reality I owe it all to her. My pre-grade school decided to stage the musical The Lion King and I was cast in the part of Timon. I remember it as if it was yesterday, my mother and grandmother had sewn this silk costume with a tail, and while I was singing the iconic Hakuna Matata; an idea popped into my tiny head for me to reach down to my hanging tail and whip it around in a circular fashion. She says I looked so comfortable onstage that she had to send me to Masquerade. Through the years working under Tony Bezzina, I have learnt that time management and punctuality are key in the theatre business. A rehearsal starts and ends at a given time not before or after. I try to apply those rules to my everyday life, balancing with rehearsals, studies and of course my social life. My day is usually split up into sections with university in the morning, after that straight to a rehearsal and then a slot for my social life. Thankfully I’ve gotten used to living a hectic lifestyle, now all I need is a driving license so I would be able to remove some stress from my parents’ shoulders of having to drop me off at various locations, though I admit im getting used to using arriva; that is when they actually make it on time. A full time acting career in Malta… not going to happen. Acting is simply considered to be merely a hobby where one practices it, enjoys it and takes in the experience. Acting in Malta is very similar to football in Malta, it’s considered to be merely a pastime or a part time job.

Where have you trained?

RF – I trained at Guildford School of Acting, Surrey, and graduated with a Masters in Musical Theatre; as a child/teen I trained at Masquerade School for the Performing Arts; I have also been attending vocal tuition under soprano Gillian Zammit since the age of 13 years old and also occasionally go to vocal coaching sessions with Denise Mulholland. 

AA – Well, since the age of 4 I have been training with Masquerade School for the Performing Arts and I have never looked back. Also, at Masquerade, I have also been attending vocal lessons for over five years with the ever so patient soprano Andriana Yordanova. Of course, I have also attended various workshops, mostly organised by Masquerade that have given me an insight into aspects of my performance that I either neglected or didn’t care much about. Some personalities who directed the workshops include Andy Smith, Phil Bateman, Lizzi Gee, Evelyn Duah, Dr Bruce wall and world renowned  vocal coach to the stars Patsy Rodenburg (who was listed as number 15 in a list of the most influential people in theatre in the UK).

What is your favourite kind of play/show and part?

RF – My favourite kind of show is definitely a musical - if you mean my favourite part as in from the show, I usually LOVE the overture haha: for example, whenever I see Phantom of the Opera at London's West End, the overture gets me a little bit too over-excited haha! / if you mean 'part' as in 'role': I enjoy most roles but the main thing that sticks out to me is their acting through singing. (not sure I understood the question haha, did I?)

AA – I adore black comedy with its witty dialogue and unexpected twists, but then again I have a soft spot for most musicals. But on the other hand, I don’t mind watching a serious play or a good piano recital. I don’t have a favourite to tell you the truth. My favourite part, has to be the comical role that gets audience laughing, I don’t know why, I think I just like the sound of laughter. I like making other people laugh.

Do you have any role models or inspirations?

RF – My mother: she has such a grounded understanding of what dance is and she instilled in me what discipline in the arts is all about; my father: he recently showed me it's never too late to pick up new things. A year ago he picked up a guitar for the first time and took to it like a fish to water; and Anthony Bezzina: he has truly shown me what the meaning of 'labour of love' is all about after putting so much into the creation of the new M Space building and encouraging so many youths to get involved in the theatre scene. Internationally, Kristen Chenoweth is highly inspirational.

AA – This is quite a difficult question. An actor who I look up to a lot is Robert Downey Jr for his onscreen performances (not his offscreen persona). Another role model, who has always had a word of advice ready for me when I needed it is our director, Anthony Bezzina. He was always there to help me improve my performance and become a better overall actor both onstage and offstage. And finally one piece of advice from my late grandfather that I have always kept in my head for when things were getting tough: “In life, you need to have the strength of a horse”. That, I would say is my ultimate inspiration.

What are your ambitions?

RF – My theatrical goals are to keep on improving in singing and acting; I constantly want to better myself as a performer. I also wish to pass on my love for musical theatre and music to the children I teach. 

AA – My ultimate ambition would be to perform on the West End stage in London, that would be a dream come true.

What are your opinions on 'the scene' in Malta? Do you have any suggestions on how to make it better, bigger?

RF – My honest opinion is that in the past few years I can really see a positive change in the theatre and music scenes in Malta - being away for a few years and coming back to see so many new bands and so many more youths as well as adults joining the theatre scene. It truly has grown. It seems to be moving in the right direction. Perhaps we could try to liase more with foreign companies when putting on local shows - we already do this quite often in Malta but I think the more we do this, the better because we get to learn from what bigger professional companies do (and in turn they could learn from our ways too). Another thing we could do to make the scene better is something psychological: is to try to get out of the mentality that music and theatre should simply be side jobs whilst following some other career - if you truly love this line, you can make a living out of it nowadays..because I feel that opportunities are increasing, although some may disagree.. I also feel that we should strive much more for perfection in our local productions - I often find that the music is either too loud or the microphone sound is not clear enough etc.. because we have a bit of a u ejja ha mmorru attitude... If we take on a bit more of a professional approach the better quality of productions would in turn make audiences enjoy theatre even more.

AA – The scene in Malta is quickly developing into quite a busy yet entertaining one, with plenty of shows and musicals all year round to feed the hunger that audiences crave. This proves to be quite an advantage for us actors as it provides a larger pool of opportunities for us to choose from and involve ourselves in. Different opportunities bring with them different experiences; that really helps an actor to grow in what he does both onstage and off.

What's it like working together as the two characters who may (or may not) fall in love?

RF – It's great working together – you can't even tell I'm eight years older than Andre and that I actually am one of his teachers at Masquerade *giggle*! It's very easy and comfortable working together, we're always up for a good laugh during rehearsals.

AA – Well I had never worked with Rachel in a show before, though I had heard a lot of good things about her and saw her performances, so I was looking forward to it. I was slightly intimidated at first because she has much more experience than I do; but we work together well and we help each other on where we can improve our performances. She is a true professional in what she does. Will we live happily ever after? Come to the show and find out!

Why should audiences come and watch The Curse of Snow White?

RF – I'll answer this question with another question: What would the Christmas season be like without the traditional pantomime? Snow White is a story that appeals to any age – a story of love and acceptance mixed with some comic twists and typical Maltese jokes along with some fantastic tunes that are sure to make the audiences sing along and tap their toes to!

AA – To begin with I would say that audiences should come to watch the panto at the Manoel primarily out of tradition and the joy of going to Malta’s national theatre during Christmas time. I still fondly remember the first time my parents took me to watch panto, so I encourage parents to give their children the joy of watching (more or less) two hours of non-stop fun. Secondly, I would say that audiences should come and see how the traditional story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves has been adapted. With a major twist added it makes this panto one that won’t be forgotten.

DETAILS: RACHEL FABRI

Born: 1985

Hometown: Swieqi

Education: Master’s Degree in Musical Theatre from Surrey University

Current job: Professional singer, Singing & musical theatre tutor

Hobbies: Song-writing and playing the piano 

Sport: Tennis (when I was younger)

Favourite books: Autobiographies

Favourite music: Musical theatre, Classical/pop crossover

Favourite film: My Best Friend's Wedding

Favourite play: a cross between Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera

Favourite actor: Sir Anthony Hopkins

Last holiday: Como, Italy

RACHEL FABRI’S UK EXPERIENCE

“After concluding my musical theatre studies I joined a classical-crossover girl quartet called All Angels. We have performed in several theatres and arenas, including Wembley Stadium (Champions League Final Opening Ceremony 2011), the O2 arena, Manchester Arena, LG Birmingham Arena, Sheffield Arena and the Royal Albert Hall. We were featured on BBC1’s The One Show, a Channel 4 feature and at the 2011 Classic Brit Awards. We’ve also performed at the House of Commons, for HRH the Earl of Wessex at Spencer House, at the Inspiration Awards at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Los Angeles USA, and many more. We released an EP called Starlight (available on iTunes) which we launched at Covent Garden’s Apple Store. I am just about to travel back for our next concert, for the Royal British Legion to be held this month at The Guildhall in London, a few days before Snow White starts! I am based in Malta now but I still fly back regularly to take part in a concert with the group.”

DETAILS: ANDRE AGIUS

Born: 1994

Hometown: Balzan, (but born in Gozo)

Education: Studying psychology at the University of Malta

Current job: Full-time student

Hobby: Football, TV and performance of course

Sport: I’m a die-hard Juventus fan

Favourite book: Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

Favourite music: Various. Currently Mika

Favourite film: Most Disney and superhero films

Favourite play: The Pillowman and The Producers

Favourite actor: Robert Downey Jr

Last holiday: Barcelona, Lourdes and Madrid

THE CURSE OF SNOW WHITE

This year’s Manoel Theatre pantomime takes an exciting twist as the ever-reliable Masquerade return with their own version of Snow White. Living a fairy tale life with her father and stepmother in a beautiful castle, Princess Snow White has it all. However she soon realises that her legendary beauty is more of a curse than a gift when it attracts a dark jealousy that puts her life in danger.

Escaping into the deep wood where horrible creatures are known to roam during the night, Snow White manages to find some unlikely allies who will help her in her adventures. However, in this action-packed show where panto madness meets Gothic fantasy, Snow White will need to undertake a voyage of discovery until she unearths the dark and terrible truth.

The Curse of Snow White is a spectacular and magical show that promises to rank amongst Masquerade’s previous pantomimes Jack and the Beanstalk (2008) and Aladdin (2009) as some of the finest Manoel Theatre pantomimes to date.

The show features a top cast made up of panto veterans along with some of Malta’s most promising new talent, including Colin Fitz, Rachel Fabri, Andre Agius, Steve Hili, Katherine Brown, Joe Depasquale, Steffi Thake, Louis Cassar Reband and Joseph Zammit. The show will be directed by anthony bezzina and is written by Malcolm Galea. The music will be directed by Kevin Abela while Ernest Camilleri is in charge of costume design. Choreography is by Lee McCallion.

This panto is being staged at the Manoel Theatre till 6 January with matinees on the 5th and 6th. Tickets from the Manoel Theatre box office or online at www.teatrumanoel.com.mt. Students may purchase their tickets from the Manoel Theatre box office using their smartcards

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