Pope Joan and her relevance today

MaltaToday caught up with Pope Joan lead actress Maria Buckle and found out just what’s on the Pope’s mind a few weeks shy of opening night

Actress Maria Buckle
Actress Maria Buckle

This July, Teatru Malta together with the Malta International Arts Festival will be presenting the highly anticipated summer production Pope Joan at the Mdina Ditch on the 6, 7, 9, 10, 11 and 12th of the month.

So Maria can you tell us who exactly is Pope Joan?

Pope Joan is a young woman who from an early age shows an incredible thirst for knowledge. She is eager to learn and wants to be challenged. She is able to analyse, understand and challenge what she learns. She is determined. She is defiant. She is kind-hearted. She is loyal and wants to love and be loved. She is hard-headed and also insecure. She is human.

Why is the character of a 9th century pope who legend has it never existed, still so very relevant today?

Pope Joan represents anyone and everyone who has ever dared to go against society’s accepted customs and rules. In the face and time of adversity and abject corruption being led by power-crazed nobles, she, who had absolutely nothing but a brilliant mind, manages to move forward and keep learning through sheer determination and good faith. Her priority was never one of power or scandal - it was always one of knowledge and understanding.

Her aim was that of gaining knowledge and using it to help people, and as a consequence that strengthens her spirituality. That is why this piece and this character are relevant today – in a world where what was hideously wrong was deemed to be the norm and completely acceptable, she forges a way for herself and fights for what she believes is right.

Pope Joan represents anyone and everyone who has ever dared to go against society’s accepted customs and rules
Pope Joan represents anyone and everyone who has ever dared to go against society’s accepted customs and rules

Who is Pope Joan in the 21st century?

Joan is each and every one of us. We have all at some point been frustrated at injustices and unfairness; We have all fought (or wanted to fight) for something we believed in; we have all loved and lost; we have all been rejected; we have all been pushed down and gotten back up again. If any of us have felt a fire within us that drove us forward, we have experienced what kept this woman alive.

It’s not the first time you’ve worked with director Irene Christ. Tell us more about working with her then and now.

Well, the last time I worked with Irene was around 2007 (I think!), so let’s just say I was fresher than I am now, because, you know, life. I must say, however, that working with Irene then is just as enjoyable as working with Irene now. She is very understanding as a director, and although she has a clear vision of what she wants, she listens to our ideas and interpretations of our characters within particular moments and lets us find our own way. Irene pushes me as an actress; she pushes me to move out of my comfort zone, she pushes me to be daring, she pushes me to find different layers to one character – and that is why I love working with her, because she teaches me.

Why should audiences come to watch Pope Joan

Apart from the brilliantly talented cast involved (seriously, they’re a power house!), it is a beautiful story about a strong-willed young girl who believed in herself and her humanity. It is a story about fairness towards minorities, and equal access to education. It is a story about love, empathy and compassion in a world where there seems to be none. Audiences, will all, on some level, relate.

So the question really is, what are you waiting for to buy your tickets? Pope Joan is based on the novel by Donna Woolfolk Cross in the stage version by Susanne Felicitas Wolf and opens on the 6th of July and runs until the 12th as part of the Malta International Arts Festival and is made possible with the support of Festivals Malta, Arts Council Malta under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice Culture and Local Government, the Restoration Directorate Rehabilitation Project, Goethe Institute, the US Embassy and the German Maltese Circle.

For €20/€18 tickets or more information visit kultura.mt