Get knocked up, win some cash

Four young actresses, Kim Dalli, Daniela Carabott Pawley, Mariele Zammit and Shelby Aquilina star in Stagun Teatru Malti’s production of Simon Bartolo's Habbilni Ha Nirbah, based on the shocking true story of a quartet of Maltese girls who ‘compete’ to get pregnant on a wager. TEODOR RELJIC had the chance to interview them altogether during a brief break during rehearsals, before they open at the Manoel Theatre on February 12

Girls gone wild (L-R): Shelby Aquilina, Daniela Carabott Pawley, Kim Dalli and Mariele Zammit
Girls gone wild (L-R): Shelby Aquilina, Daniela Carabott Pawley, Kim Dalli and Mariele Zammit

What was it like to perform in a play like this, with its ‘pulled-from-the-headlines’ story? Was it challenging to re-create these ‘real-life’ characters on stage?

Kim Dalli: It gives you a sense that you're involved, artistically, in something relevant to our life and times.

Daniela Carabott Pawley: It is best form of theatre. It's great because we can relate to it better than working, say, in a great play set abroad, where we do not have any direct experience of the circumstances around it.

Mariele Zammit: Yeah but it doesn't have to be about us to be great neither.

DCP: Of course not, but that's what Staġun Teatru Malti does. Plays about Maltese. I can relate to that because it is directly about my world.

Shelby Aquilina: In this particular play we don't know who the real girls were.

KD: I heard it's an urban myth.

DCP: No, no it's true. Not the play, but the story about the four girls betting who'd get pregnant first.

KD:  But the play is fiction.

DCP: Based on the truth.

ALL: Yeah, yeah. But it goes beyond what might have happened. Simon used it only as a starting point. It's so much more than that.

The play and its characters are shocking and blackly humorous in equal measure. Did you feel like you had to make these girls somehow sympathetic, and was this difficult?

KD: As an actress, an artist, you have your own ideas, but then rehearsals start.

SA:  Long rehearsals!

KD: Yeah, long hours, but they they help you focus and discover things you never knew you knew.

DCP: Then the director comes in, and the rest of the cast and you build, together.

SA: This is very collaborative work. It's fun, and hard, but it's the best.

DCP: I think not knowing who these girls were is better. Like that, you can create a whole new character from scratch.

On a similar note, what was it like trying to balance out the humour and the drama of the piece?

MZ: The humour in the play is really funny but after you laugh there’s that feeling that, in reality, you are laughing at some very misguided characters. Yeah it's funny but my goodness, it's not a joke, you know what I mean?

KD: It sure does not end funny.

SA: Don't give anything away, Kim.

KD: No, no I won't.

DCP: I think it's scary. What these girls do, how they behave, what they believe in. It's really scary.

SA: Our director is doing a great job figuring out the moments and keep the pace of the script.

Ultimately, do you think this play has a ‘message’ for younger people, or should it be taken as a kitchen-sink expose of harsh social truths?

KD: Big whopping message I think.

MZ: But it's not spelled out, like, it's not a sermon.

SA: No definitely not a sermon but a strong statement nonetheless.

DCP: But it's left pending. You make out of it what you want.

KD: I think you could say that the message is in the expose, and the expose is in the message.

SA: (laughing) That's very deep!

Finally, what do you make of the local theatrical scene? What would you change about it?

KD: I think there is a very healthy theatre scene in Malta these days.

SA: There's something happening almost every weekend.

KD:  Looks like we will be playing to full houses.

DCP: I think we need to see some more classical theatre. I mean, you know, more plays from the world's great authors.  Possibly translated into Maltese.

SA: Staġun Teatru Malti however is only interested in original works.

MZ: We should talk to them… not that original works are bad, mind you…

 Directed by Sean Buhagiar, Habbilni Ha Nirbah will be staged at the Manoel Theatre, Valletta on February 12-14; 19-21. Bookings: [email protected], 2124 6389