Sneaking in for some hot tub theatre | Malcolm Galea

Writer Malcolm Galea speaks to us about two vastly different projects he has going on concurrently. One is about swingers, the other is about toilets. Or rather, is set in a toilet. We’ll let the man do the talking…

Malcolm Galea • Photo by Jacob Sammut
Malcolm Galea • Photo by Jacob Sammut

‘Marti Martek, Martek Marti’: swinging, Malta-style

“When I was approached by Staġun Teatru Malti, I was given the title of the play and asked to write a sex comedy about Maltese swingers at a weekend in Gozo. The rest was up to me. My first challenge was to research ways in which I could make this situation relatable. I also wanted ways to make it feel sexy and fun without it looking seedy. Once I overcame those issues and established detailed profiles for all the characters, I just threw them into that situation together and let them interact with each other. I merely wrote what they were saying in my mind. Does that make sense?

“I was pleasantly surprised with the working method which was made up of me writing numerous drafts that would then get a rehearsed reading followed by a feedback session. I found this to be very invigorating. The entire production process was good fun.

The play is first and foremost a feel-good romp with genuine belly-laughs aplenty – the kind of thing you’d watch with a group of friends. For those who wish to delve deeper, it also deals with the Maltese family, issues of masculinity, and how the Maltese view foreigners. However all this is concealed by a thick veneer of outrageous comedy and penis gags so those who don’t go to the theatre to think have absolutely nothing to fear.”

Creative writing as a day job

“My work is made up of either commissions or projects that I do on my own steam. Commissions provide a stable income whereas my self-driven projects (if successful) enable me to attract more interesting commissions later on. I suspect that the commission for ‘Marti Martek, Marti Marti’ came as a result of my work on ‘Porn: the Musical’ (a saucy sexy comedy that had gone out of control a few years ago) and ‘Id-Dlam taħt it-Teatru’ (my first play in Maltese which I quickly wrote when I realised that the cash prize for the Premju Francis Ebejer happened to coincide exactly with the down-payment for my kid’s school). I was approached by Staġun Teatru Malti to write ‘Marti Martek, Martek Marti’ about three years ago and I became really interested in the project when I was later asked if I would also direct it.

“I love a new challenge and commissions are a good excuse for doing things that are a bit out of your comfort zone. My works are generally plot-driven with an emphasis on the story and structure. With ‘Marti Martek, Martek Marti’ I experimented with my first mainly character-driven piece and kept it all in real time – without breaking it up into scenes. The time it takes to watch the play, is pretty much the time it takes for the actual events to happen. The result is an uninterrupted flow of conflict, comedy and revelations at breakneck speed.

“Apart from that, the play has a hot tub in it. I believe this is the first time the Manoel Theatre orchestra pit will host a hot tub. Sometimes with commissions it’s just fun to see what you can make people do.”

Communal Thoughts: toilet confessions

“A couple of years ago I was working at St James Cavalier when it occurred to me that every single room in there has hosted some sort of artistic exhibition or installation at some point – even if it was just when the centre was opened in 2000. In fact, the only rooms that have not were the toilets. I thought it would be fun and exactly my kind of thing to exhibit something in the toilets and so the idea for ‘Communal Thoughts’ came about.

“In today’s world we are always rushing from one thing to another and one of the only times when we’re free to think our own thoughts is when we’re in the bathroom. This project explores what people think about during this time and the idea is that when you go into the toilets, you can hear the thoughts of the people who were there before you. I wanted to do this by writing and recording a series of monologues and playing them via an audio system. The project would then be interactive with people being able to record their own thoughts via an anonymous online questionnaire. I would then turn their answers into a monologue and record actors interpreting it.

“When I pitched the idea to Spazju Kreattiv and applied for the Malta Arts Fund last year, I was very encouraged by the response. I received funding and guidance to work on the project and after a soft opening two weeks ago it has been gaining momentum with about thirty new questionnaire responses coming in daily.”

‘Marti Martek, Martek Marti’ runs at the Manoel Theatre this weekend, while Communal Thoughts will remain at the downstairs restroom of Spazju Kreattiv (St James Cavalier), Valletta until May 29