The old Maltese bus, through time and space

Teodor Reljic speaks to Maltese theatre veteran Sean Buhagiar about his latest venture – a Malta International Arts Festival performance penned by Simon Bartolo, which will see a theatre troupe visiting several towns to deliver a free performance – ‘B’Tal-Linja Jaqbillek Zgur’

B’Tal-Linja Jaqbillek Zgur creates a roving performance centred around a Maltese bus
B’Tal-Linja Jaqbillek Zgur creates a roving performance centred around a Maltese bus

Why did you choose the ‘old’ Maltese bus as your chosen ‘vehicle’ (in every sense of the word) for this performance, and how will you avoid the pitfall of tourist kitsch?

The plot is based around the bus. We wanted to arrive and leave in the square, and the idea of the bus revolved around the plot. The risk of ‘kitsch’ is simply down to how you treat it. We wanted to treat it differently… let’s say, ‘artistically’. 

Could you tell us a bit about the content of the play itself? 

Simon [Bartolo] created a colourful, surreal world on the bus – full of caricatures of society. It is the story of a group of people who follow the ‘Bus Captain’ through time and space. 

Sean Buhagiar
Sean Buhagiar

How will you seek to engage with audiences, and will you vary your approach according to the locality?

The show is meant to be interactive, and so engaging with the audiences is part of the point. The actors are trained to interact with what the audience gives them and yes – we will adapt to each locality so that the audience can feel it is participating, even passively. The simple notions of place, choice (each audience member determines his own vantage point), movement (the audience can follow the action throughout the space) are all part of the engagement. The mention of the localities and the traditions around them, also makes it interactive. 

How do you feel about forming part of the Malta International Arts Festival, and what do you think this annual appointment contributes to the cultural scene as a whole?

We are honoured to be in the same line up of artists such as Arvo Pärt. Yes, I believe the Malta Arts Festival is an important cultural landmark which gives audiences the opportunity to experience artistic work of excellence. It also gives local artists the opportunity to challenge limits and gives the opportunity for the sector as a whole to develop. 

What do you make of the theatre scene in Malta? What would you change about it?

I believe audiences are increasing for live performance in general. There are a lot of challenges for practitioners and we have a lot of space for development to be able to compare internationally. It’s a very exciting time. I believe this work does its part. Besides being wildly entertaining, this is a community project, a social project, and a regional (we are visiting the five regions of the islands) project which hopeful leads to more democratisation of local theatre.

B’Tal-Linja Jaqbillek Zgur will be performed at the following locations during these days:

July 12: Misraħ l-Arċisqof Gonzi, Kalkara 

July 13: Pjazza Santa Liena, Birkirkara

July 14: Misraħ il-Parroċċa, Mellieħa 

July 15: Pjazza San Nikola, Siġġiewi 

July 16: Pjazza l-Assunta, Żebbuġ

All performances will start at 19:30

For more information and a full programme of the events forming part of the Malta International Arts Festival, log on to: