[WATCH] Ann Fenech gets hitched to Konrad Mizzi in hilarious, bawdy Qarċilla

This is a wedding on a political high: Ann Fenech and Konrad Mizzi are getting married and witnesses are none other than cat-and-dog Glenn Bedingfield and Daphne Caruana Galizia

Immanuel Mifsud writes a powerful political satire (Photo: James Bianchi)
Immanuel Mifsud writes a powerful political satire (Photo: James Bianchi)

By Isaac Azzopardi

Ann Fenech and Konrad Mizzi are getting married on the biggest ship in Malta and this is no cruise liner – it’s the LNG tanker in Marsaxlokk bay!

This is a wedding on a political high. The witnesses are none other than cat-and-dog Glenn Bedingfield and Daphne Caruana Galizia, who have both undergone notable transformations.

Fort St. Angelo, perched on its spit of land in the Grand Harbour, was the stage for this year’s Qarċilla, penned by Immanuel Mifsud, and it revolves around the marriage of Ann Fenech (Anna Fenech) and Konrad Mizzi (Korradinjo), presided over by ‘the Notary’.

Bedingfield (Shag-in-field) is now skin-thin and lanky from working too hard at Castille, and Daphne (Dik li ma tissemiex) fat and dressed in garish colours.

The Qarċilla, a carnival street farce revolving around a notary’s reading of rhyming contract to wed the couple accompanying him, dates back to the 1700s.

Throughout the years it evolved from its Commedia dell’Arte spirit to being heavily regulated by the Knights and then the British, who tamed the Qarċilla’s obscenely racy content. After not being performed for decades and seemingly forgotten by people, it made a popular comeback in 2014, with a new Qarċilla penned by Trevor Żahra.

PN executive president Ann Fenech and opposition leader Simon Busuttil
PN executive president Ann Fenech and opposition leader Simon Busuttil

Among the audience were Simon Busuttil, Ann Fenech and Salvu Mallia – the last two featured in the Qarċilla – at whose expense a lot of jokes were made. When the Notary quipped about Konrad and his assets, one of them shouted out to Simon to take pictures for proof of Konrad’s shady affairs.

This incredibly informal event being part of Carnival celebrations has grotesque written all over it. This ‘grotesque’ is the upending of all that is normal, conventional; it is the unreal and the surreal. 

And so, the Qarċilla features lurid dress and colours, exaggeration of movement, shouting and a lot of sex puns, notably the chorus about the minister’s very big ship (Kemm hu kbir tal-ministru! Sab ix-xaqq u dahlu gewwa, ara ftit kemm dahal sewwa!), and Anna Fenech’s lamenting where to pee (Issa jien fejn ha nbul?).

As far as this Qarċilla goes, there is a strong comedic narrative. Mark from Xarabank is on PBS reporting a TV live-stream from the wedding of the year. The notary and groom enter and are joined by the bride and Ben Shag-in-field as celebratory toilet paper is thrown across the hall into the audience.

The black shrouded mass behind which they stand is revealed to be the LNG tanker, much to everyone’s annoyance.

The tanker keeps swaying violently to a side to dramatic effect from the swear-strewn shouts of the cast. The source is later revealed to have been “Dik li ma tissemiex” (She who must not be mentioned – Daphne Caruana Galizia) getting on board.

The PBS crew keep disrupting the proceedings for the adverts, which is actually a sing-along with the audience. Following fights, bickering, swearing at each other and several bad sex and fart puns, a final character appears, the Hippy (Salvu Mallia) – Jien xi darba kont magħruf/Stilla tat-televiżjoni/Issa sirt qisni l-Messija/Nirreżisti l-korruzzjoni. (I was once well known, a TV star, now I’m like the Messiah, resisting against corruption).

After throwing the Hippy overboard, the Panama flag is unfurled along with the Panamanian national anthem in honour of Konrad, and the ship starts to drift off the shore and panic ensues. The Hippy emerges victorious holding the unfastened berthing ropes and roundly calling all the wedding assembly ‘Assholes!’ and they back at him.

The performance itself was brief, fast-paced and hilarious, the audience constantly cracked up laughing, particularly at the unashamed use of the vernacular, swearwords and bad sexual puns. A handful of people were quite uncomfortable with some things that were said, who didn’t seem to be laughing at all.

Though this was my first viewing of the Qarċilla, ignorant of the format they took, it seems unfit for such a bawdy, innuendo-filled performance to be institutionalised by the University of Malta and Heritage Malta. Tickets for this event held at Fort St Angelo - possibly the island’s most impenetrable fortress - cost €15 (price including food and wine). Age restriction is a must, but that shouldn’t deter the agents of the Qarċilla from reaching a wider audience.

Less of interest was the lecture: we get it, the Qarċilla is something old, now let us at it. History is interesting, but a comedy should not be preceded by a lecture.

But let’s not forget the pen behind this Qarċilla: Immanuel Mifsud writes a powerful political satire. What seems to be grotesque is not the garish colours of carnival, but the petty politics and batty media on which this year’s Qarċilla is based.

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