Azzopardi’s scurrilous ‘Daphne’ character enrages critics and leads to leak of script

Theatre producer Mario Philip Azzopardi’s upcoming Ix-Xiħa satire at Manoel Theatre raises ire over villainous character that references last lines penned by Daphne Caruana Galizia

Theatre producer and film director Mario Philip Azzopardi
Theatre producer and film director Mario Philip Azzopardi

Theatre director Mario Philip Azzopardi is out to enflame supporters of the memory of Daphne Caruana Galizia, with a controversial play – Ix-Xiħa (the old woman) – that bluntly references the assassinated journalist’s last lines ever published.

The play survives a previous refusal from the Manoel Theatre board, which had first turned down Azzopardi’s two satirical plays, Min qatel lil Daphne? (Who Killed Daphne?) and Ix-Xiħa, co-financed by a €20,000 finance ministry grant to encourage Maltese-language plays. They predated the assassination of Caruana Galizia.

Min qatel lil Daphne? had been originally blocked by the theatre board after a reading of the title and the script, the producer had told the Caruana Galizia public inquiry.

Azzopardi told the inquiry that even Ix-Xiħa had been first refused after Manoel Theatre’s artistic director Kenneth Zammit Tabona voiced concern at the script, where one character is “a wealthy blogger, a mother of four, whose character was too close to that of Daphne Caruana Galizia.”

Critics on Facebook and members of the Caruana Galizia family hit back at the announcement of the Manoel Theatre’s staging of Azzopardi’s production. The theatre-maker Philip Leone Ganado called the Manoel Theatre’s decision “literally unbelievably”, implying the late journalist would be deliberately misrepresented given Azzopardi’s earlier script for ‘Who Killed Daphne?’.

“There’s no way it could (not) actually be meant as her,” Leone Ganado said. “Feel free to check out the writer’s page, where he explicitly says it is. There’s even a trailer, to disabuse you of any notion that the tone might elevate it.”

The journalist Manuel Delia later published a leaked version of the Azzopardi script, calling it “shallow, badly written, and superficial, and it is bad because it is spiteful, full of hate, prejudice, and disturbingly incurable visceral violence.”

“I publish the script as my way of protesting against this play. Mario Philip Azzopardi has the right to write and present this play. I have a right to be offended by it and to say so. One of the women in this poster plays a character called Jenny a stand-in for Daphne Caruana Galizia,” Delia said.

The play will portray a dead mother who, conversing with the audience, plots revenge on her snobbish four children by disinheriting them in favour of the family servant and nanny. “One of the children is transparently Daphne Caruana Galizia or rather what listeners of Super One imagine Daphne Caruana Galizia was like,” Delia said. “She is venal, spiteful, classist, incapable of empathy or any human emotion.”

In one of the lines intended to bait audiences to Caruana Galizia’s last words published on her blog, the ‘Jenny’ character says “May your children die of cancer. There are crooks everywhere you see.  A desperate situation.” (“Jalla it-tfal tagħkom imutu kollha kemm huma bil-kanċer. Kull fejn tħares, ħallelin biss. SITWAZZJONI DDISPRATA.”)

Azzopardi has now said he will take legal action against the leak.

“Zammit Tabone led a campaign against the script, and this eventually reached the ears of the three judges conducting the inquiry into Caruana Galizia’s murder. I will be publishing the full testimony soon,” Azzopardi announced on Facebook.

Azzopardi said his other play had been commissioned before the assassination of Caruana Galizia on 16 October, 2017. “The inquiry wanted to ascertain whether the play was intended as an incitement against the right-wing blogger. I had to repeat myself. The play was never written. The intent was to write a satire in which DCG is found dead and after the police investigate the case they conclude that she died by drowning in her own bile. But it never came to pass,” Azzopardi said today.

He said Ix-Xiħa references “the blogger” and defended the work as a satire. “In satire nothing is sacred. Why should it be. What is the meaning of ‘sacred’ anyway? And how could [the inquiry] judge if they knew nothing about what they were talking about?”