The Malta Independent 2 December 2023, Saturday
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The white elephants show

Tuesday, 26 September 2023, 08:16 Last update: about 3 months ago

Louis Gatt

Yes, two of them, I'm sorry to say.

I suppose the biggest white elephant of the two is that disgrace of a "theatre" at the entrance to Valletta, I believe they named it Teatru Rjal. And yes I have been to a performance there... once. Some visiting friends misguidedly bought tickets for a concert at Teatru Rjal and... total misery. Apart from the fact that it took place in May, when although not actually freezing, it was still pretty chilly in the evening, it was also quite noisy. Someone suggested the extraneous racket might be coming from as far afield as the three cities, where some sort of rival "musical" event was under way. Oh and by the way the seats were extremely uncomfortable. Not an evening to remember, but certainly one to forget. Never again!


This mirrored the experience of some friends of ours who, while staying at the Phoenicia Hotel attended some sort of concert / recital at Teatru Rjal. They later reported that apart from the uncomfortable seating, the sound of, what they described as "World War III" (yes, a nearby festa) rendered the evening as one to put down to experience. Naturally, when we met up they asked me: "Why the hell did they build an open-air theatre there?" Good question. I did try to explain that it was sort of tagged on the end of the Citygate project, so there was probably not enough cash left over to build or restore a proper enclosed theatre; but they still departed shaking their heads in disbelief.

Why, for goodness sake, when they had the opportunity, they didn't construct a proper covered theatre is one of those mysteries that will probably never be explained. If ever there was an "ejja ha mmorru" cop out this was it.

The other underused, or rather hardly ever used is the Greek theatre in Ta' Qali. Many years ago I actually watched the great Karmen Azzopardi in a Maltese translation of, I believe it was Women of Thraces in this theatre.

Here again, a Greek style theatre it may be, but Epidavros it most certainly is not. The seating is primitive, to say the least, and the acoustics are, shall we say, dreadful. This was again a one-off visit; so that is obviously why this theatre is hardly ever in use. I can't think of any production being put on there in the past 10 years or longer. What a waste of money... our money.

I am not rubbishing all outdoor events held during the dry summer season; I have attended many such and enjoyed most of them. I have seen concerts and theatre in al fresco venues in St Elmo, at Tigne Point, in Hagar Qim and of course the annual MADC Shakespeare in San Anton Palace public gardens. The last mentioned was nearly always a watchword for a quality production and it seems churlish to mention two stinkers. But way back in the 1980s a quite dreadful production of As You Like It and a few years later Richard the Third were the exceptions that kind of proved the rule. 

To counter these, when I was but a little lad I remember Godwin Scerri's excellent production of Romeo and Juliet in the gardens that first got me into the works of William Shakespeare. Then at a much later date Chris Gatt's treatment of The Merry Wives of Windsor that threw out many of the accepted methods of producing Shakespeare and was all the better for it.

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