In our first Entertainment Malta’s Monday Morning Brew, we take a look at theatre, especially Malta’s National Theatre, Teatru Manoel. As autumn sets in, theatres across Malta and Gozo, launch their seasonal schedule with various productions inside their buildings. Unfortunately, the forthcoming season is going to be a hard one for all theaters, including the Teatru Maonel .
The Theatre VS The Pandemic
Theatre in Malta and Gozo is currently at its knees, as it is the world over due to the pandemic. Like other industries, such as tourism and hospitality, the arts and entertainment industry is suffering the most. Everyone working in it is facing their hardest challenge of this century due to the Corona Virus. We all know that a theatre on its own is useless without the professionals that make it come alive. Amongst those professionals, we find musicians, singers, actors and a variety of others types of performers and professionals. Some of these you cannot see, as they work hard, behind the scenes bringing productions alive.
However, amidst the clouds, there is a ray of light and some theatres are facing the challenges they are experiencing. One of these theatres is Valletta’s very own Teatru Manoel, Malta’s National Theatre. Despite tough measures and regulations, the show goes on in this theatre. However, it is still impossible for the theatre to admit patrons to its full capacity, and limits on spaces available do not make this an easy task for productions to keep going.
Current Situation Is Not Easy
The current and latest regulations state, that no indoor venue is allowed to have more than 100 persons. That number includes the staff as well as the performers too. Then again, that number also depends on the size of the venue. A smaller venue may only hold a maximum number of patrons relative to its volumetric space. This is why so many smaller venues can not go forth with any performance since it would incur a big loss in revenue. That is something producers cannot afford at the time being. On top of that, it is hard to plan ahead, but some are trying some way or the other. Nobody knows when this dreadful pandemic will finally be overcome, so the only thing for theatres to do is to try and proceed the best they can.
‘Despite having over 400 seats, only 100 people could be admitted’
Last week Teatru Manoel opened it doors once again, with its first live audience since March. The first production took place on the 23rd of October. Nicola Said together with musicians Nadine Galea, Christine Zerafa, Stefan Calleja, Godfrey Mifsud & Desirée Quintano took to the stage. The patrons attending the live music performance were well socially distanced so despite being full the theatre was very empty.
Despite having over 400 available seats, only 100 people could be admitted for the performance. Bedsides this, that number includes staff and the performers too. This leaves the theatre looking empty, as can be seen in the photo taken by Mark Zammit Cordina, publically posted on the Times of Malta online editor, Herman Grech’s Facebook page.
A picture of the Manoel Theatre last night as it reopened its doors in these bizarre times. Still trying to figure out…
‘Perhaps the war isn’t over yet!’
It only takes one look at the photo, for a strong sense of sadness to hits you. Seeing that many empty seats, makes one think that the industry is dead. Looking at it from the virus vs the industry perspective, it is. However, looking at it from a different perspective, perhaps the war isn’t over yet!
Take a closer look at the photo and you will notice that most of the surrounding boxes of the theatre contain patrons. A quick headcount of the people visible in the boxes and seats below, quickly adds up to around 50 persons. The photographer and adjacent boxes and the technician/s in one of the boxes are not included in this quick headcount. Furthermore, when asked about the number of people in the same post above, Artistic Director, Kenneth Zammit Tabone, in reply to the question mentions that despite having over 400 comfortable seats, in line with the current Covid restrictions, admittance is only available to 100 people. This number includes the staff and performers which easily mount up to 25 people. Therefore, in this case, this leaves just 75 places for the audience in Teatru Manoel.
As tragic as this all sounds, it is a good sign as it means that despite the pandemic, people are still willing to support the theatre and the arts. In Teatru Manoel’s case, this is happening to the maximum current capacity.
‘we must admit that one can never beat the feel of a live performance in a theatre’
Teatru Manoel’s forthcoming schedule includes a mixture of upcoming productions but the management is keeping the pandemic in mind. In the hope to survive and continue, it is providing a schedule with online and live performances where the situation permits. Check out Teatru Manoel’s official website here.
To sum up, we must admit that one can never beat the feel of a live performance in a theatre. The ambient, the emotions, and audience reactions are what bring out the best in any performer. However it is not just the artists or the staff that bring the theatre alive, it is also the audience who play a huge role in the outcome of the final production.
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