Theatre producer Mario Philip Azzopardi has laid into Maltese artists for not speaking out in his defence after his play Ix-Xiħa was cancelled by the Manoel Theatre last month in the wake of public criticism at its satirisation of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
“Don’t go down the slippery slope of telling artists what to do, because when you go down that slope, it is tough to climb back up,” Azzopardi said when interviewed by Jon Mallia on Il-Podcast ta’ Jon.
“You shouldn’t accept people stopping thoughts; thoughts can only do good because they bring about discussion.”
“You are playing with fire here. Actors, writers, artists, shame on you all. You should go up on stage and cry out for freedom and everything that is beautiful and intellectual and defend free thought, yet you all failed greatly in this time of need because you said nothing. It’s an enormous tragedy.”
Ix-Xiħa is a political satire based on the sons and daughters of a matriarch who dies and leaves her entire fortune to the family maid. One of the daughters is a blogger, a satirical version of Caruana Galizia, and in the climax of the play, she dies following an explosion.
The final words before her death directly quote a blogpost of the assassinated journalist following the death of Dom Mintoff and her infamous last words “the situation is desperate”.
Following an online backlash, the Manoel Theatre decided to cancel the show, arguing the decision was borne out of “a sense of responsibility to the artistic community, our performers, and our audiences”.
Azzopardi insisted that the play itself was not about Caruana Galizia and that either way the production should be treated as satire, something that was even noted by the judges on the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry when he was summoned to give testimony before them in 2019.
“Don’t we live in a democracy where we managed to completely erase censorship and give writers the right to write whatever they want, how and when they want and without being stopped by anyone? Even if someone wants to say that Jesus never resurrected and that Mary was never a virgin, he has a right to it.”
He also warned that some of the show’s actors were threatened with violence and their own employment, which made them reconsider their role in the performance.
“An actress was told that someone had already lost their job because she was involved in these things. She was scared, started crying, and told me that she has to pull out or she will lose her job. That is the situation of arts in Malta. None of my actors had any balls.”
Azzopardi pledged to put on the show anyway “in the near future” and predicted it will be a major hit.
“Don’t you think people will come out to see it? I predict I will be able to put on ten shows and fill them all out.”
The interview with Azzopardi is currently available on Patreon and will be streamed on Facebook tomorrow at 9pm on Lovin Malta’s Facebook page as part of our collaboration with Il-Podcast ta’ Jon.
Do you think the show should have gone ahead?