‘Maltese theatre has come a long way’ | Maxine Aquilina

Young actress Maxine Aquilina speaks to us about FM Theatre’s new production of Leonard Gershe’s Butterflies are Free, in which she will be taking on the role of Jill – popularized by Goldie Hawn in the 1972 film version

The cast of Butterflies are Free, from left: Luke Mercieca, Marika Fenech, Jimmy Monaghan and Maxine Aquilina
The cast of Butterflies are Free, from left: Luke Mercieca, Marika Fenech, Jimmy Monaghan and Maxine Aquilina

What were some of the main reasons you decided to pursue drama?

I love the feeling I get when I perform. I enjoy every part of a show. Starting from rehearsing to the long technical rehearsals in the theatre to the final performance. It’s when I am at my happiest.   

What motivates you to continue acting?

The learning experience. I love that I learn so much from every show I take part in. I have performed in various types of theatre and have learnt different styles of acting and techniques from each one. The greatest thing is that you never stop learning. 

How would you compare this play to previous productions you have been part of?

This is the second ‘straight’ play I have performed in and must be the most challenging role I have played. My character is a complex one, even though she may not seem so. It’s a lovely romantic comedy, which is a first for me also. 

Do you feel any extra pressure, taking on a role from such a long running play, and which has since even been embodied by Goldie Hawn for a film version? How did you prepare for it?

I do feel under pressure though not because of the film. The last time this play was produced, Marika Fenech (Mercieca) played my character, Jill. I have big boots to fill! I prepare by doing a lot of work on the text, breaking it down and understanding my thought process and character journey as my character. Playing with different physicalities and researching the period it is set in… plus learning lines as quickly as possible!

How do you feel about the Maltese theatrical scene? What would you change about it?

I think Maltese theatre has come along way even from when I was younger. The standard of performances have improved and there are so many talented performers. I would want to change the way the theatres are run. I would want the state theatres to be more transparent administratively and run by people who have theatre experience.

What’s next for you?

Up next for me is Steve Hili’s Adult Panto Jack & His Beanstalk. I’ve never been in an Adult Panto before and expect it’s going to be quite silly and quite naughty, but lots of fun!

Butterflies are Free will be staged at St James Cavalier, Valletta on May 22, 24; 28- 31 and June 4-7. The rest of the cast includes Marika Fenech, Luke Mercieca, Maxine Aquilina and Jimmy Monaghan. The play is directed by Stephen Oliver