Frolicking Christmas away | Marta Vella

Marta Vella of the theatrical comedy troupe Frolic speaks to us about the second – Christmas-themed – edition of the sketch show Post Dramatic Stress Disorder, which will continue to satirise the life of the local actor, now with added holiday drama.

Marta Vella (centre): “Theatrical life is almost like real life, just heightened, which is perfect for comedy”
Marta Vella (centre): “Theatrical life is almost like real life, just heightened, which is perfect for comedy”

What inspired you to get the first edition of PDSD up and running?

We are a team of six friends; all actors, writers and directors in our early/mid-20s involved in theatre. Last April we realised that we had never been in a production together before, and when we got the opportunity to create something from the ground up, we immediately agreed on a comedy sketch show about the ups and downs of theatrical life.

Eight months later, here we are, as Frolic, ready to present the sequel to the successful run of PDSD last April. However, in those eight months we have worked on establishing ourselves as a company. We staged a short play at the President’s private gardens, as part of an event called Il-Festa, and won all 8 awards at the Malta International Theatre Festival with the play, Coco’s Fabulous Speed-Dating Soiree, written and directed by Frolic’s own Vikesh Godhwani. We plan on continuing to grow, with the sequel to PDSD as a co-production with St James Cavalier being another stepping stone for us.

What’s in store in this edition, and what can PDSD fans – both old and new – look forward to seeing?

For this edition of PDSD we’ve kept to the same theme of actors and theatre but this time around we’ve added another layer to the show as it also revolves around Christmas. We mirrored the same structure (a fast-paced comedy sketch show made up of 10-12 sketches with no interval) as it worked very well in keeping an audience engaged throughout. Fans of the first edition will also be very glad to know that a couple of fan favourites have returned but this time with a seasonal twist.

​The show uses the local actor’s life as a jumping-off point for its comedy. Did you find this an easy-enough subject to write about, and how do you set out to make it accessible to non-actors in the audience?

‘Write what you know’ is precisely our mantra. Most of us jump from one production to another and in our theatrical experiences we come across a pool of outrageous personalities and situations that inspire our writing. The material is practically staring us in the face most of the time. It is almost screaming at us to be written. It is automatically accessible to non-actors as theatrical life is almost like real life, just heightened, which is perfect for comedy.

For example, someone who wants a promotion badly at work, can easily identify with an actor who wants a lead in a play; the way they go about getting what they want may vary but the desire stems from the same place. Therefore, using theatre as our jumping-off point works both for us as writers but also for an audience as theatre life after all is just a more dramatic version of real life!

How would you describe your dynamic as a group?

We work extremely well as a group. Since we are all close friends who know each other very well it allows us to play to each other’s strengths and therefore maximise the quality of the show. This does not only apply when it comes to casting the roles, but more importantly when delegating the behind the scenes work. Perhaps, the most challenging factor of working in such a team is that everyone leads a very busy life so scheduling rehearsals can sometimes prove to be problematic. However, at the same time since we are so comfortable with each other, there’s almost more flexibility to any other production; in other words we try and accommodate each other’s needs as best we can.

What kind of ‘gap’ would you say you fill in the local theatre scene with these shows?

I think it is unique to the local theatre scene as in terms of comedy sketch shows it appeals to a wide range of people. First of all, we use both Maltese and English in our sketches. Despite it being predominantly in English we feel it is important to include both languages as we do like the inclusion of Maltese humour as it immediately involves the audience more. It is important to note that, our Maltese section of the show is subtitled as we also don’t want to limit the audience to just Maltese viewers.

Additionally, unlike other sketch shows, we avoid the inclusion of politics. We feel that one goes to the theatre to have a break from that! Through our sketches we prove that comedy can come from the most unexpected of subject matter. In other words, who needs politicians, when you have actors to pick apart?

On that note, how would you describe the contemporary Maltese theatre scene? In what was is PDSD a response to the productions that tend to be staged locally, particularly during the winter and Christmas period?

I feel like theatre in Malta is constantly reaching a higher standard in terms of quality but also in relation to variety as different theatre companies cater to distinct tastes. That being said, I do believe that during the Christmas period people’s choices are narrowed down to family shows like pantos or nativity plays which are first and foremost aimed at children. That’s where we come in.

With our target audience being the 16 and over crowd, we cater to those people who want to watch something for adults. Our slogan, ‘Putting the X in Xmas’, promises a show that is full of unadulterated fun; a show that pushes the boundaries of comedy and provides a great alternative to traditional Christmas shows that many people are perhaps finding tiresome and stale.

Post Dramatic Stress Disorder is being staged at St James Cavalier, with remaining performances tonight, December 26, 27 and 28. More information:

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