The twists of the game

In a process she describes as ‘fascinating and electrifying’, Italian theatre director Lisa Ferlazzo Natoli speaks to TEODOR RELJIC about spearheading GAME – a Unifaun Malta and Teatru Malta production which will be staged right after the World Cup matches at the National Stadium in Ta’ Qali


What attracted you to this production, and what’s your take on how Teatru Malta are planning and staging their new slate of productions?

When Adrian Buckle (founder of Unifaun Theatre) and Teatru Malta got in touch with us about this production, what mainly attracted us was the opportunity to collaborate with an independent and serious theatre structure attentive to young and contemporary drama. The proposition to work on Game written by the playwright Brad Birch immediately fascinated us due to the very original script and for its main themes – the deep implications of familial heritage, the topic of corruption and the focus on “the game”, both as a concrete and a metaphorical subject. We were also charmed by the opportunity to work side by side with the author himself, which gave us the possibility of exploring the play along with him.

What do you think are some of the most notable elements of Brad Birch’s script, and how do you hope to transmit them to the audience?

Brad Birch’s text has the notable quality of being able to meld together different tonalities of writing, combining a thrilling genre with a deep analysis of how the subconscious works. On one level, Game can be seen as a rather “realistic” text which subtly describes inner and stratified familiar relationships – between fathers and sons, brothers and sister or couples – depicting the way each of these ‘players’ wields control over the other. Birch’s script also investigates the fine line between connivance and reality, between corruption and loyalty.

In order to transmit this very stratified and complex text to the audience, we built the play on slightly tilting and stratified actions.

The “hyper-realistic” scene contrasts with a sound landscape that displaces the apparent main significance of every single scene, while the inner pauses in the acting suggest a deeper interpretation of the text. A similar function places dramatic weight on the outside – as an imaginary field of the action and a constant presence in characters’ intentions. As well as the “interludes” created by the author, there are moments were the unconscious seems to be released.

How essential is the experience of football to the overall experience of the production? Do you think that theatre-goers without an explicit love of football will have the same experience of the production as those who are keen on the sport?

Football is important not only because it is part of a strong national tradition, but also because it is capable of intertwining and connecting people in a collective sport all around the world. Football is treated by Birch in a very simple way, though he also analyses some of its contextual realities – such as corruption and gambling.

At the same time, football leads to a key argument during a funeral wake in the play; an argument that belies deeper questions haunting the characters’ lives and encompassing issues of power, love, the dilemma between individual choices and the weight of heritage, or the unbearable – though simple – desire to escape from a past that leaves them in a rut.

What can you tell us about the play’s unique staging (taking place after a football match). How does it enhance the experience?

Staging this weird thriller-drama in a football stadium is fascinating and electrifying. The location of the funeral wake – the bistro where the character play – is literally suspended onto the stadium, and in this way the “realistic” location of the play suddenly becomes unreal. The atmosphere of the football matches that precedes the play – almost the “smell” of them –  literally spreads throughout the venue.

What do you make of the Maltese theatrical scene as a whole?

We didn’t get to spend all that much time in Malta, truth be told, but already from what we’ve seen, it appears that the theatrical scene in Malta is quite rich. In the particular context of our collaboration with the Unifaun Theatre, we could remark the particular attention to the “contemporary” scene, the courage to invest in new texts and dramaturgy along with the chance to work with an extremely serious team of actors, artists and technicians.


Directed by Lisa Ferlazzo Natoli and written by Brad Birch, GAME is a co-production between Unifaun Theatre and Teatru Malta, and is supported by the Malta Football Association and British Council Malta. The cast includes: Erica Muscat, Malcolm Galea, Stephen Oliver, Julia Camilleri and Davide Tucci. The show will be staged on June 15, 17, 18, 21, 23, 24 at the National Stadium, Ta’ Qali at 22:00. Bookings: