Queer coming of age musical debuts at BlueBox Theatre

Laura Calleja interviews Luke Saydon on the creation of his original musical It-Teatru tal-Miskin, ahead of its debut at the BlueBox Theatre, Mspace on 17 November

What inspired you to write It-Teatru tal-Miskin? Why was this story important to you?   

Musical theatre has always been my emotional outlet, it’s how I feel I communicate best. What inspired the urgency for the story was a very poignant point of the pandemic. The point when we found ourselves with far more time on our hands then before. And we all spent more time online.

And in between fantastic acts of kindness, we were also given access to hateful comments. In a time of an urgent need of kindness, racist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, xenophobic comments were still rife. And we had more exposure to them. It panicked me. This human race of ours… do we still have time to be intolerant of one another? 

This story has always felt important to myself and the communities we consulted with. Intolerance, I think, has been experienced by everyone at some point, but for those who are still fighting for equality and acceptance – the urgency for this story has never faltered.

What can the audience expect from this production?  

It’s a musical about a queer troupe of performers who visit a town of intolerant people – the town of Ħal Fern. There they challenge the townsfolk’s unexamined conformity. They use their music and theatricality to unearth the past of Ħal Fern. They bring to life the heartless and ultimately tragic tale of how the intolerant Ħal Fern treated a young boy who dared to wear heels. A boy who dared to be themself.

The piece deals with some of the darker aspects of our society in a fresh and innovative way. It is entertaining, it is a visual spectacle and at times very funny. We want our audiences firstly to feel intrigued by what our characters are getting up to, we want them to be entertained and immersed in this new world – and lastly to be moved to do something about it.

What was the biggest challenge in writing and putting up the production? 

Being a start-up theatre collective, we took on the ambitious task to tour the musical in three venues including Malta and Gozo. Our show launched a brand new theatre space, and transformed two others into Ħal Fern. These challenges were not easy. But counteracting that was the overwhelming support we recieved from our partners, our funders and most importantly our audiences.

The biggest challenge in writing the piece was investing so much of my own personal experiences into it. There’s a lot of my own thoughts and experiences that went into the writing – and such fears were only overcome because I was surrounded by the most caring and sensitive group of creatives I could have asked for.

How long did it take from the initial idea to the finished piece? 

The drive had been there for many years, but from the first official meeting until opening night it must have been a solid two years of research, work and beautiful creative processes.

Do you have a particular favourite line or exchange from It-Teatru tal-Miskin?

The Buffi refer to their task of changing people’s uninterrogated lives as a “rivoluzzjoni ċkejkna” (a tiny revolution). We often think of revolution as something bold, and majestic and entitling. If every person had a tiny mission to change the world, in just a tiny way... gosh we’d be in a much better place by now. “Ċkejkna. Imma xorta rivoluzzjoni.”

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?  

I do get cold-feet offering advice, as I feel I’ll probably be the first person to not follow it.

It-Teatru tal-Miskin was my first script-writing experience. If I had to start the process again I think I would waste less time doubting the potential of the work. Because that was exactly how I was holding my own work back from growing. If I didn’t believe in my work nobody would’ve. And it’s as soon as my creative team made me aware of it that I felt the musical achieved the strength it needed from the start

Produced by Saydon Studio, It-Teatru tal-Miskin is directed by Denise Mulholland with Movement by Ruth Borg starring Thomas Camilleri, Chiara Hyzler and Sean Borg as the three Buffi. This musical would not be possible without the support of our partners Arts Council Malta, Agenzija Zghazagh, Spazju Kreattiv, ARC Rainbow Allied Communities, MGRM, European Year of Youth, BOV Joseph Calleja Foundation & Deloitte.

It-Teatru tal-Miskin will be playing at BlueBox Theatre, Mpsace in between the 17th and 20th of November. Tickets, access information and more may be found on www.saydonstudio.com