Compassion in a cruel future

As the cast of Edward Bond’s Chair gets set to transport audiences into a dystopian world this April, Laura Bonnici chats with performers ALEX WEENINK, ERICA MUSCAT and FAYE PARIS

Left to right: Alex Weenink in Chair, Erica Muscat in Chair (Photos by Darrin Zammit Lupi)
Left to right: Alex Weenink in Chair, Erica Muscat in Chair (Photos by Darrin Zammit Lupi)

When all is lost, what harm can a chair do? According to English dramatist Edward Bond – a lot.

Set in an apocalyptic and not-too-distant future, Bond’s satirical play Chair divests people of their humanity, making them products living in a new version of Auschwitz. In this alternate world, family means nothing, compassion is a crime, and a simple act of human kindness such as offering someone a chair can change lives.

At Spazju Kreattiv from 21 April, Adrian Buckle and the Malta School for Drama and Dance presents Chair starring Erica Muscat, Ann-Marie Buckle, Alex Weenink and Faye Paris, directed by Clive Judd. The show’s impressive creative team also includes sound designer Michael Quinton, lighting designer Chris Gatt and set designer Romualdo Moretti.

“I feel lucky and equally humbled to be joining the cast of Chair,” says Erica Muscat. “As an industry, we can always trust Adrian Buckle to bring work to the island that is relevant and sets off discourse. This is my fourth time working with Adrian and my second time working with Clive – accompanied, once again, by a stellar cast.”

Touted by The Guardian as ‘a strangely hypnotic play that proves a chair is as potent a visual symbol for Bond as it was for Vincent van Gogh’, Chair follows the story of Alice (Muscat) who takes care of Billie (Buckle), a young woman who is on the autistic spectrum. Alice has a secret that she must keep from Billie, to protect her from the State. As a blast from her past hits the two women, Alice notices a young soldier outside their flat accompanying an elderly prisoner, and, taking pity on her, offers a chair – a decision that would change everything.

“Chair taps into a certain 21st century dread that is all too present today,” shares Alex Weenink. “It stares at it and investigates it head-on. Empathy, spectacle, bureaucracy and freedom are all under the microscope.”

“Scarily, it isn’t difficult to compare the reality in our world today to that described in Chair in 2077,” says Faye Paris. “In 2023 we have war in Europe, creating the world’s largest displacement crisis, as well as more a decade of conflict in Syria and Lebanon, climate change chaos, drought, famine, the list goes on. The abuse of power and degradation of humankind continues to prevail the world over.”

Rising to the challenge of bringing such complex themes to life on stage, the cast created their diverse characters in a rehearsal process alive with possibility. “Clive always has a really focused but incredibly playful rehearsal room,” reveals Weenink. “Despite it being a text-based play, we explore visuals, physicality, sound, intentions, thought processes, feelings – all before we speak any of the lines. That is incredibly freeing and important for me as a performer.”

Paris agrees: “We have workshopped and discussed the play’s deeper messages at length during rehearsals – but with such a well-written script as this, if we play our parts with truth, we can arouse discussion after the performance and move the audience in any small or big way.”

And, with such a thought-provoking piece, what do these highly experienced performers hope the audience will take away from watching Chair?

“I hope they enjoy the craft,” answers Weenink. “The set, the lights, the sound, Clive's direction, the cast's performances – there is a lot going on that will make for a really beautiful, haunting production.”

“We must remember that the choices that bring us to the future shown in Chair were intrinsically human and the choices to change course are too,” Muscat concludes. “Perhaps the question should be whether we, as a species, are capable of that alternate choice. Each day we are bombarded with stories of war, famine, genocide and the blatant disregard of social justice. Chair makes us ask ourselves: will I maintain my passivity, or will I choose to offer a chair to the vulnerable, even if it costs me my future?”

Adrian Buckle and the Malta School for Drama and Dance presents Edward Bond’s Chair on 21, 22, 28, 29 April at 8pm and on 23, 30 April at 7pm, at Spazju Kreattiv Main Theatre, Valletta. This performance is suitable for audience members aged 16 and over. This project is supported by Arts Council Malta. Tickets are available online at