Every woman has a story to tell | The New Victorians

Sibling musical duo The New Victorians speak to TEODOR RELJIC about their upcoming show MARA – A Celebration of Women Through Time, which, with the help of a substantial and experienced cast of all-female performers, will strive to bring women’s stories to the forefront instead of simply ‘moping over [depressing] statistics’

An ensemble cast will bring various women’s stories to life during The New Victorian’s MARA performance
An ensemble cast will bring various women’s stories to life during The New Victorian’s MARA performance

‘Women’ is quite a broad category as far as themes for theatrical productions go. What led you to choose such a broad topic, and how are you going about making it more specific for the purposes of the MARA show?

As musicians, every time we watch a show the first thing we notice, criticise or admire is the sound and the music. For weeks we had been discussing the idea of putting up a production that would focus on great sound as well as live sound design. One evening Philippa said, “I got it! I know what our show has to be about! Women!” And that’s really how it all started. As I did research about female musicians, composers and producers during my Masters I was always fascinated by how many superb women remain, simply, unknown. Not because they have achieved any less but just because they are women. I guess it made us want to do something about it, rather than just mope at statistics.

Why do you think this theme is particularly urgent in this day and age, and even more particularly to Malta itself?

When figures, though improving, still show an imbalance between men and women in the workplace and in leadership positions, there is no better time to be celebrating women. Following the legacy of the suffragettes who fought with all they had, we feel it is our responsibility to continue to encourage women to embrace their voices and their freedom, to live their lives with purpose. We also wished to celebrate extraordinary women such as inventors and entrepreneurs alongside more “ordinary” women such as our own mothers and teachers, knowing that everyone has a story to tell.

We have no time for gender stereotypes. Chase what you love and do it well no matter what.

How did you set about choosing the cast? What were your criteria?

We knew we wanted the cast to devise this work with us and be a part of the creative process from the get go. Since the sound and music was to play such a big role, it was a bonus that most of our cast members could sing, play a range of instruments (from the violin to the accordion to the mandolin) and dance extremely well… besides act! MARA has an all-female cast of women of all ages (which begs the question: is it still rude to disclose a woman’s age?), representing women of all walks of life.

The New Victorians (L-R): Bettina and Philippa Cassar
The New Victorians (L-R): Bettina and Philippa Cassar

Could you talk a bit about the narrative that makes up the show?

The show will tackle many stories of various women throughout time, highlighting various ties between them.

And what about the form? How did you set about adapting the narrative to the sound?

Each scene worked out differently. For some scenes we worked on sounds and tracks in the dance studio on laptops, following the cast as they devised the movements and script. Other scenes were created and discussed and an idea for a soundtrack was just given to us from the actors themselves and we just had to go about creating it. Other times a track was finalised and given to the actors who were asked to tell a particular story using the music and sounds they were given. It’s been a lot of to-and-fro-ing, which is why it was so important that we had a good chemistry and a clear vision from the start. In some moments the actors will be recorded on stage, and then that sound will be manipulated live and used in the storytelling. Interaction with the audience will also take place were they too will have a say in the final outcome – but I guess you’ll just have to come and see for yourself.

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

There’s a lot going on here! In fact, sometimes it’s just too much to keep up with. Many musicians and artists are investing a lot of ideas, time and experimentation in different works, which is great! If I could change something about the scene though, it would be to encourage even better musical education that would also make technology and production more accessible to everyone.

What’s next for you?

After MARA? Rest. And after that? More music and possibly some shows and gigs abroad. Too early to say though...


MARA – A Celebration of Women Through Time will be staged at the Manoel Theatre Studio Theatre on August 19-21 at 21:00. The full cast includes Charlotte Stafrace, Bettina Paris, Mariele Zammit, Ruth Borg, Becky Camilleri, Corinne Camilleri, Tutzi Cassar, Tezara Camilleri, Nicole Carabott and Nicola Zarb, with composition and direction from The New Victorians, who are Bettina and Philippa Cassar. Bookings: www.teatrumanoel.com.mt. The event is supported by the Malta Arts Fund