Kurt Gabriel Meli: 'Another person’s success is not your failure'

Playwright Kurt Gabriel Meli tells all in our Q&A

Kurt is as passionate about languages as he is about a good slice of tiramisù, which is a lot. Besides recording videos on Maltese linguistics under the alias Kurt Rumbajsa, he is a playwright who currently works a freelance interpreter for the EU. His favourite colour and cat breed is orange.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

Head straight to the fridge for a glass of orange juice, preferably Tropicana.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Another person’s success is not your failure.

What do you never leave the house without?

Noise-cancelling headphones.

Pick three words that describe yourself?

Picky and pedantic, but pleasant.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Getting accredited as an interpreter for the EU on my first attempt.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Picking my nose is too satisfying not to do in public.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

It’s probably never that serious.

Property and cars aside what’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?

A gaming laptop followed by a concerning shopping spree of Sims 4 expansion packs.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

Despite its similarity to the word syndicate, sindku does not refer to a group of local councillors but the actual mayor. This genuinely took 20 years of my life to figure out. It’s one of those words I never felt the need to use myself, just overheard other people use it and built my own meaning around it.

Who’s your inspiration?

All the strong women in my life, especially my mother who taught me compassion, and my aunt who taught me conviction.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Accepting that compromise is a beautiful thing for the people we love the most.

If you weren’t a playwright, what would you be doing?

In the words of Donatella Versace, having a nervous breakdown probably.

Do you believe in God?

It would be dishonest to call myself a practising Christian, but whatever my feelings towards religion may be, I don’t think I’ve ever shaken off my belief in God.

If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive, who would it be?

Katya Saunders. Having such a trans trailblazer so close to home feels almost mythical and I wish I could have appreciated her impact before her passing.

What’s your worst habit?

Seeking superficial validation from strangers and taking my loved ones for granted.

What are you like when you’re drunk?

Giggly after the first shot, Mikiel Anton Vassalli after the second, Karl Marx after the third.

Who would you have play you in a film?

My friend is convinced I’m the spitting image of Liza Minnelli - I don’t see it, but maybe she could play me, based off of that observation alone. And, I mean, it’s Liza Minnelli, so why not?

What trait to you most deplore in others?

Rudeness towards waiters or hospitality staff tells me all I need to know about a person. Chewing with your mouth open is a close second place.

What music would you have played at your funeral?

Not sure about music, but I do have a Youtube playlist of absurd videos I’d like to have streamed at my wake. If you know what a Cupcakke remix is, that’s the vibe I’m going for.

What’s your most treasured material possession?

An ornate pen in an engraved wooden case, which I received as a parting gift after finishing primary school. It has a lot of sentimental and nostalgic value, especially because the school has since closed down and some of my fondest memories are connected to my time there.

What is your earliest memory?

Waking up from a very relaxing nap to my entire family staring at me from all sides of the bed. I’m sure they found it cute but in that moment it was kind of mortifying.

When did you last cry, and why?

Twice last Monday - first after some concerning news about grandma’s frail health, second after seeing my partner graduate with a PhD.

Who would you most like to meet?

Lorde. To me, no one has captured the poetry of being raised in the 21st century quite as well as she has, and the relatability of her music has defined some of the most sensitive and formative years of my life.

What’s your favourite food?

Marks & Spencer mini spare ribs with shaoxing wine sauce. They don’t import them to Malta anymore and the withdrawal symptoms are real.

If you could travel in time, where would you go?

Luxx Noir London from Rupaul’s Drag Race Season 15.

MaltaSajf 1986. My uncle is in one of those viral videos.

What book are you reading right now?

No particular book at the moment, but rather a stack of PDFs on the influence of Maltese on spoken English to substantiate my Master’s thesis.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Know the precise origin of obscure words on demand.

What’s one thing you want to do before you die?

Learn a language that is not written in the Latin script.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

An unhealthy dose of Serbian pop after falling down a rabbit hole of their Eurovision national selection. Shoutout to Zejna and Kat Dosa.

In the shower or when you’re working out, what do you sing/listen to?

Azealia Banks meets Rammstein meets every significant female pop singer in the last 30 years.