'Exposing the Maltese soul’ in style | Il-Hajja Sigrieta tan-Nanna Genoveffa

We speak to producer Adrian Buckle and director Marcelle Teuma about the upcoming stage adaptation of Trevor Zahra’s beloved novella Il-Hajja Sigrieta tan-Nanna Genoveffa.

Maria Buckle, Marta Vella and Chris Galea.
Maria Buckle, Marta Vella and Chris Galea.

One of the literary hits of our generation, Trevor Zahra's naughty-and-nostalgic Il-Hajja Sigrieta tan-Nanna Genoveffa will now be getting the theatrical treatment courtesy of Unifaun Theatre, adapted for the stage and directed by Marcelle Teuma and staged at Sir Temi Zammit Hall, University campus on October 26, 27 and November 1-3.

According to producer Adrian Buckle, the erotically frank story of the titular protagonist who challenges early 20th century Maltese social mores with gusto, "exposes the Maltese soul for what it is".

"I remember after attending one of the rehearsals that this play has it all: obscenity, blasphemy and political controversy. However they are treated with style, and I doubt the play will offend anyone. In fact, we are selling it for audiences older than 16.

"So while it may be somewhat controversial, it's also, significantly, about things that make us Maltese."

This production marks the third collaboration between Trevor Zahra and Unifaun Theatre, with Buckle having overseen Minn Wara z-Zipp, Is-Surmast and Ritratti Sepja in their transition to the stage. Though Buckle and Teuma are very much aware that they're handling the work of a national treasure when dealing with Trevor Zahra's oeuvre, they're also confident about producing a satisfying adaptation, largely owing to the fact that Zahra has proven to be very easy to work with.

"The pressure is always there," Buckle says, "but in this case, I know we're on to a winner", while Teuma says that, following a preliminary meeting with Zahra about the adaptation, she was reassured that she could "work with pleasure" to bring the story to the stage.

Teuma also said that much of the original novel will remain intact. "It was more a question of which episodes to leave it to keep a length which makes theatrical sense," she says. Buckle elaborates: "We are telling the story in Dario Fo and Franca Rame fashion with the actors behaving as voices rather than characters.  Obviously, we had to make cuts but I believe these were made to facilitate the dynamics of the performance."

Perhaps not many changes were necessary in the first place as, according to Buckle, the story is stage-friendly in and of itself.

"There are many aspects that make the writing theatrical - the comedy, the pathos, the sex... this is a work about a lively young woman who is hell-bent on living her life her own way."

The play's cast includes Martha Vella, Maria Buckle and Chris Galea.

More information and bookings: http://www.unifauntheatre.com/

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