Setting the stage | Alan Fenech, director of the Malta International Theatre Festival

Teodor Reljic speaks to Alan Fenech, the Director of the Malta International Theatre Festival, about what distinguishes this celebration of local and international theatre from other events of its ilk

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
1 September 2016, 8:48am
The Spirit of Throne by Yerevan State Pantomime Theatre
The Spirit of Throne by Yerevan State Pantomime Theatre
What were the initial aims of the festival, and how did it evolve over time?

The Malta International Theatre Festival was launched in 2014 to commemorate the 20th Anniversary (1994-2014) since the official establishment of the Malta Drama Centre as the national performing arts school under the Department of Education. Following the first edition, the Malta Drama Centre School Council decided to hold the festival on a biennial l basis alternating with a Youth Theatre Festival (first edition 2015).

I Will Knit You A New Mitten When We Reach Sweden by Frost Theatre
I Will Knit You A New Mitten When We Reach Sweden by Frost Theatre
How would you say the festival is distinguished from others happening during the same season?

The festival is unique in a local context since as opposed to other festivals it is entirely dedicated to stage plays and it also has an international dimension which aims at showcasing our local talent as well as expanding the theatre spectrum amongst local practitioners. The main aim of the festival, in fact, is to present, by way of a variety of plays, performances and subsequent critical analyses, colloquies and workshops, a global picture of the diverse trends in theatre, and to encourage encounters between theatre practitioners.

Arlecchino u l-Barbier ta Siviglia by Zararti
Arlecchino u l-Barbier ta Siviglia by Zararti
What are the new dimensions being incorporated into this year’s edition of the festival?

The first of the novelties is the location itself. The performances will be held at the Egmont Hall within the walls of the newly renovated Fort St Angelo. The fort is not yet open to the public and hence the festival also presents an opportunity to those who have not yet visited it to enjoy the beautiful panorama this majestic fortress offers. Another novelty is the increase of foreign participating groups from two to three, with performers from nine different countries. This year also, there are no less than six different workshops and discussions which will be held at the Malta Drama Centre.

Mikhail by Grokk Teatru
Mikhail by Grokk Teatru
On what criteria did you select this year’s batch of international participants, and what would you say each of them brings to the table?

The committee selected the international performers bearing in mind the reputation and portfolio of the group, their international experience, the relevance of the production proposed as well as an overall variety of genres and performances. Yerevan State Pantomime Theatre bring with them the Armenian tradition of mime, I Piselli (based in Germany but with performers from 6 different nationalities) are experts in Commedia Dell’Arte, while Frost Theatre from Sweden give a different meaning to traditional Scandinavian theatre.

Generally speaking, what do you make of the local theatre scene? What would you change about it?

I believe that the Maltese theatre scene has evolved and that locally we are producing an array of very high-standard productions. The main problem is performance spaces, with highly talented new theatre groups finding it hard to find a space where to rehearse and perform within their budget. This is definitely something which I would change. I also believe we must continue working hard for our practitioners to be able to study performance on a full time basis from a very early age… something which I know the Ministry of Education is working on and which we are currently offering on a part-time basis through the Directorate of Life Long learning.      

The Malta International Theatre Festival will be taking place between September 8 and 11. For more information and a full programme of both the festival and its adjoining workshops, log on to: www.mitfestival.com

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Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...