Teatru Malta’s controversial Min Hi?

PAUL COCKS sat down with director and composer Ruben Zahra to unravel the secrets behind the controversial upcoming Teatru Malta production Min Hi? Zahra speaks about his ideas, the concept behind the show and what audiences can expect to see this October and November

You've said that during this production actress Lee-N Abela will portray 12 different female roles ... What's the significance of this being a one-woman show?

The production is conceived as a one-woman piece. You can still see the actress as being one character … embracing different personalities. The script is compiled from the stories, myths, anecdotes and references of different women that converge into one character. Furthermore the monologues are distributed across six different scenes, each with its own distinct mood and character.

You've been in the rehearsal space with Lee-N for months now but there are also a number of other elements that have been in the works for weeks, such as your rehearsals with soprano Nadia Vella who will be singing live throughout the show. Tell us more about the musical side of Min Hi?

The soundtrack plays a very important role in “MIN HI?”. Originally I wanted to use an ‘a cappella’ choir … but then I began to experiment with a mic looper and I decided to apply this effect. A mic looper is a piece of music hardware interface that allows you to create layers of vocal parts. So a solo singer can create harmonies and even counterpoint all by him/herself. Everything is done live. I am not using any pre-recorded backtrack in this performance. Besides the vocal score, there are many other extra-musical sounds that are very well curated and that form an intrinsic part of the ‘live’ soundtrack.

How long has Min Hi? been in the works?

I came up with the concept of this production in 2005 while participating in a theatre festival in Besançon – France. I would go back to it occasionally to develop strands and ideas… but I guess it was in gestation… waiting for the right moment to hatch. I started working strategically on the production of “MIN HI?” in January 2018. I spent almost a full year researching the characters and discussing each scene with Trevor Zahra who wrote the script. Dramaturgy, script, sound and music were developed together, one area informing the other towards a cohesive production.

Aesthetics are a very important part of the Min Hi equation. Can you tell us more about the making of these intricate props and tell us what audiences can expect to see on opening night?

The mask worn by the actress during the street theatre acts was created by Štefan Priehyba, while the prop artist for “MIN HI?” is Jennings Falzon. Jennings is very talented and has the craftsmanship to work in any material: wood, metal, clay, plaster, papier-mâché … etc. Indeed he employed all these materials for “MIN HI?” and I am very satisfied with the detail and visual impact of Jenning’s work. I will just reveal one of the props that was used during the pop-up street theatre acts. One of the scenes portrays five human foetuses in glass jars. The original sculpture of the foetus was made from clay, out of which Jennings created a plaster mould to produce five resin casts. Each foetus was then painted to create the realistic skin tones and fitted with an umbilical cord that acted as a stand so that the foetus appear to float inside the jar.

Min Hi? Is written by Trevor Zahra,  directed & composed by Ruben Zahra, and is a one-woman show starring Lee-N Abela with live singing by Maltese soprano Nadia Vella. Seating for Min Hi? is limited and the production runs between the 31st of October and the 3rd of November for four chilling nights only. To book your €15/€12 tickets for Min Hi? visit kultura.mt or visit teatrumalta.org.mt for more information.