Should I stay or should I go? | Simone Spiteri

Playwright and actress Simone Spiteri speaks about Du Theatre’s latest production Kjaroskur, and the worrying lack of Maltese-language plays on the island.

Shades of love and anger: Peter Galea (left), Simone Spiteri, Stefan Farrugia and Coryse Borg.
Shades of love and anger: Peter Galea (left), Simone Spiteri, Stefan Farrugia and Coryse Borg.

As anyone living in Malta and Gozo will tell you, the islands' oppressive summer heat is enough to push even those with the mildest of tempers to the edge (even the air-conditioned Arriva buses failed to curb this reality, it seems).

And when the relevant parties happen to be two siblings and their wives, the tension is ratcheted up all the higher.

The premise of Du Theatre's latest play, Kjaroskur, hinges on the bubbling anxieties that come to the fore when two brothers - Greg and Alex - decide to spend the last few days of summer in a holiday house in Gozo. Bitter grudges re-emerge, but things only get worse when a spot of most unwelcome infidelity is introduced to the already simmering psychological cocktail.

Playwright Simone Spiteri - who won the Francis Ebejer Prize for Kjaroskur - says that she was driven by a desire to explore "how perspectives make the world go round and how no two people can have the exact same understanding of every single thing, idea or experience under the sun".

"I was also interested in what one of the characters in the play calls the 'glue' that keeps a relationship going, whether it's a good, bad, imaginary or dead one."

But while these themes may be universal, there is an undeniably local dimension to a Maltese-language play set in what even a tourist would refer to as a 'typical' Maltese environment. While denying that she set out to pinpoint particularly 'Maltese' mores, Spiteri acknowledges that the play inevitably reflects certain truths about contemporary Maltese life.

"I knew that these people were Maltese but I didn't focus on highlighting what I believe makes them so. The two couples, however - one having emigrated to a foreign bigger city while the other stayed in Malta - do reflect a reality which I believe is very common in a small island state and I was very interested in exploring the 'going' or 'staying' dilemma which, at the end of the day, many generations of Maltese have had to consider for one reason or another through different time periods."

Spiteri, however, remains puzzled by the fact that more of her theatrical counterparts haven't chosen to tackle the local context more frequently, and is concerned that if nobody else takes the plunge, Malta will not have a feasible avenue of self-expression for its most intimate and immediate concerns.

"It is pointless to hope for flowers without having a flowerbed and although more people are slowly becoming interested in putting pen to paper I think that there is still much more to be done by way of amassing an adequate collection of written pieces in Maltese about the Maltese that reflect recent times.

"A huge pity, I feel, especially since as a nation we're not short of stories that could easily inspire writers to translate to the stage..."

Kjaroskur will be staged at St James Cavalier, Valletta over March 23-25, 30 and April 1 at 20:00. It is directed by Chris Gatt. The rest of cast includes Coryse Borg, Peter Galea and Stefan Farrugia.

Tickets are at €12 for the March 23 show, €15 for the rest. Bookings: [email protected], 21 223200.