dream CAPE o
Text by
a -§Photog
by And
rew Ga
uci Att
its big tre Anon i
a sitegest producstiboack with
built a -specific n to date,
a sparound the Orsopjizect
echoeS ce wh io,
dream with la
nd ha
the tings
arms t says Paul P
“is wh ough a wide telli, extend
ere the
i ng hi s
cor r id
h.” He arnival pro r-like space
ce ssio
lo ok s
“ We h
c r u mb ve op en sp a rou nd hi m e w ill g o
ce s , tu
the po g stair ways
, t h i c k e l s , b e au t i f
ssi bil i
tie s of
b a stio
n w a ll
thi s pl
ace ar
e endl …
June 2010 | Sunday Circle 89
It was also at the Ospizio
that the biggest cholera
outbreak on the island
first broke out... They were
buried in Wied ghammieq,
Kalkara which is still
known as ‘L-Ghalqa ta’
l-Erwieh Minsija’
I look around the Ospizio walls, taking in the atmosphere
of decay, crumbling structures and strong thick walls. The
wind rushes past, through the tunnels and sally ports, over
the bastions and into the open spaces outside. The echo of
past lives is almost tangible here. It is a place for dreams
and hauntings, where you can get blissfully thrillingly lost
until you are not sure whether you are walking into the
structure or deep inside yourself.
Now it will be used as the venue for Theatre Anon’s latest
site-specific project – briefly called “The Ospizio Project”
– after the site. The project was born when the Malta Arts
Council commissioned Theatre Anon to come up with
a site-specific project built around the space. “The first
thing we had to decide was whether Ospizio had a story
which could work for us, which could resonate with an
audience,” says Paul.
So he plunged into an exploration of the history of the
place, reading up its stories and speaking to historians and
folklorists such as Giovanni Bonello, Guido Lanfranco and
Carmel Cassar to obtain detail. What he discovered was a
veritable wealth of levels of narrative, stories, possibilities.
Originally built as a Polverista or gunpowder mill, the
Ospizio was later put to different use by Grandmaster
de Vilhena. “He turned it into the first welfare institution
of its kind.” Throughout its lifespan it morphed from a
home for old people, to a mental institution – a place for
the imxajtna as they were called – a foundling home for
orphans and a place for the Maddaleni or prostitutes.
“One of the stories I found refers to a Grand Inquisitor
called Passionei who lived in Malta for about 10 years
and had an affair with a Maltese girl, who bore him two
children. Being a man of the cloth he was not supposed
to engage in activities of the sort but he genuinely loved
the girl. Their children were kept at the Ospizio… we
found a lot of stories like that…”
It was also at the Ospizio that the biggest cholera outbreak
on the island first broke out and around 450 people
were carted out, says Paul. “They were buried in Wied
Ghammieq, Kalkara which is still known as the Ghalqa ta’
l-Erwieh Minsija, the field of forgotten souls.”
Well-known for their experimental, bold and intelligent
theatre, Theatre Anon was formed several years ago.
Performances such as Metamorphosis and A Very Old Man
with Enormous Wings, in collaboration with Kneehigh
theatre from Cornwall, have turned into cult memories
for theatregoers. Almost every Theatre Anon show seems
to tap a little into the realm of dream and memory, using
physicality and movement to suggest worlds beyond the
ones we encounter everyday.
June 2010 | Sunday Circle 91
“You have to bring yourself into it. We’re
building things – we can’t afford to employ
carpenters – we have to do everything.” He
sighs. “You can’t do it if you look at it as work.”
Involving over 80 people, the performance
was built up slowly, in collaboration, through
a process of workshops and trials. “Our script
writer Clare Azzopardi attends rehearsals
and we pool or remove ideas. It’s a very
eclectic process.”
Slowly the performance took shape, weaving
into itself themes of guilt, death, facing up to
the past – but also the story and secrets of
Ospizio and Floriana itself. But, despite the
eerie themes, the performance is spectacular,
fast-paced and very funny, involving Carnival
processions, explosions, fire, says Paul. Actors,
artists and musicians come together in a
wonderful fusion, he says.
Through all this, audiences will follow
performers through the spaces in a promenade
show which will lead them to discover the secrets
of the space. “It’s a journey of discovery – even
for the audience hopefully – within a space. But
by the end you are not quite sure whether you
have also been travelling inside yourself.”
Throughout, the audience is a part of the story.
“On one level, the audience is your camera,”
he explains. Sitdown theatre, for instance,
gives you one camera while a promenade
performance such as this allows you to have
close-ups, landscape shots, panning. “But by
doing the journey with us, they are also a part
of the story and participate on an emotional,
tactile, sensual and oral level.”
So rather than the audience’s presence being
ignored – as in traditional theatre – they are
drawn into the performance as they find that
statues morph into actors, and sometimes it’s
hard to make out whether they’re ghosts or
covered with debris, and things are constantly
on the verge of becoming something else.
But nothing is done for effect, says Paul, and
everything helps to tell the tale.
Now, for the past 18 months, Paul and his
colleagues have been working on Ospizio,
a site-specific project which promises to be
a first for Malta. “Our life is on hold,” says
Paul, a founder-member of Theatre Anon,
who is also directing the project. “We have
stopped eating, we have stopped sleeping…”
He searches for words. “This is the craziest,
biggest, most ambitious project we have ever
done.” The performance has stretched the
company’s resources to the limit, he says.
92 Sunday Circle | June 2010
“We don’t want the work we do to be
cosmetic. We love saying stories, but it’s not
about the actor and his ego, it’s about sharing a
story,” he says. “For us, it’s about being sincere
and being in the moment.”
Ospizio by Theatre Anon is commissioned
by the Malta Arts Festival. It will run at the
Ospizio, Floriana on 5, 8, 9, 12, 13 and 14 July.
Tickets are available from www.maltaticket.
com or from any of the following outlets in
Malta and Gozo: Exotique, Agenda, Vodafone,
Bookends and Newskiosk. For further
information visit www.maltaartsfestival.com
and www.theatreanon.com