It is not every day that I will dedicate this space to particular theatre companies, but I felt that MADC’s late July efforts in producing David Greig’s MIDSUMMER at the San Anton Gardens shouldn’t go unnoticed.
The play itself is a feel good comedy about relationships, wonderfully directed by Chris Gatt and beautifully acted out by Chris Dingli, Maxine Aquilina and Paul Portelli. However, it is not the quality of the production (however great) that I intend to praise here. I wish to praise the old club house for having the guts to risk producing a play at all in these COVID-19 ravaged days.
As MEIA can assert, the entertainment industry is the one that is taking the largest hit with the implementation of measures to curb the spread of this horrible disease. This, in spite of the fact that no infections have ever been recorded from an entertainment event. Some might ask, is theatre entertainment though? Yes it is. I will deviate a bit from my argument to remind everyone that unless theatre is entertaining, people will refuse to return to it. Entertaining does not necessarily mean comedy. A challenge can be entertaining too. I hate it when someone tells me, “I don’t go to the theatre but I should . . .” No one should go to the theatre because they SHOULD. They should go the theatre because they like it.
Anyway, enough of that and back to the main point.
In spite of the entertainment industry’s contributions to the GDP, they are viewed, presently, with a suspicious eye by the authorities in that the same authorities are afraid that these events could help the spread of the virus. Very strict measures have been implemented making it possible for only the most courageous of us to step forward. And step forward did MADC do indeed. They have come up with a good production in the middle of this pandemic, overcoming all the hurdles, including this sweltering heat to bring theatre back to us.
As the great playwright Edward Bond once stated, “The human mind is a dramatic structure in itself and our society is absolutely saturated with drama. I think there is no world without theatre.” I agree with him. There can be no EARTH without ART.
What MADC have done in late July was show us the way. The old club showed us that theatre can happen, even under these restrictions. The old club has showed us that all it needs is good planning and courage.
Some might argue that it easy for MADC to take these risks as the members are playing with the club’s money, not their own. Indeed, that is a good point, but unless we follow MADC’s example, unless we follow MADC’s instinct, then theatre will never get back on its feet in this country.
This does not mean that the battle to facilitate the production of theatre and entertainment events is over. Far from it. MEIA needs to keep convincing the authorities that they cannot keep making the arts sector the sacrificial lamb to COVID-19. The authorities need to trust artists more, especially once the seasons change and outdoor performances will no longer be possible. They must understand that entertainment events are not simply coffee mornings where nothing happens. Theatre in particular needs to be alive.
I would like to end this blog with a suggestion. Can MADC (Malta Amateur Drama Club) change its name? Maybe it is time to recognise that they are as professional as the other entertainment industries around. Malta Professional Drama Club seems more appropriate.