Unifaun Theatre Company is finally bringing Anthony Neilson’s world-known play Stitching to the stage. This comes following almost a decade of legal wrangling which came to a positive end when the European Court of Human Rights overturned the Maltese courts’ decision to ban the play, allowing Maltese audiences to see what the fuss was all about – and to decide for themselves whether they should watch it or not…
The play follows a couple who pick apart their relationship, stitch by stitch, when they discover they are expecting a child. While their journey is brutal, dark and savage, the play’s intimacy and tenderness have struck a chord with audiences worldwide.
Stitching will be staged at the Teatru Manoel Studio Theatre next month, and indulge.com.mt caught up with Pia Zammit, who stars in the two-hander with Mikhail Basmadjian, in the middle of rehearsals.
It’s been ten years of controversy, fighting archaic laws in the Maltese and European courts, and finally, vindication. How does it feel to finally bring the show legitimately to audiences?
It’s mixed feelings to be honest. It’s great that we won, and it was an important fight which took ten long – very long – years; however, I’ve never had to revisit a play again and definitely not after a decade. It’s exciting and rather scary. Exciting that we can finally stage this and scary because expectations are high. It’s a fantastic play and we want to do it all the justice it deserves – if you’ll excuse the pun…
Many people may undoubtedly want to watch the play due to the controversy it sparked – what makes it a great play to see DESPITE all the noise?
Nielson wrote a tough, very tough play – however the moral centre is very strong. In fact, I believe that Anthony Nielson is the most moral of modern playwrights. It’s a harrowing journey for both audience and actors, but it is a fascinatingly frightening examination of a mind that is on a downhill spiral. Abby (the character I play) has been traumatised by an event (sssshhhhhh, no spoilers…) and is mentally in a bad place. Her mind is trying to work it out and figure out how to go on living – but it’s not a healthy path that it’s on. It goes to very uncomfortable places. And that’s all I’m saying as I don’t want to give anything away.
Ten years down the line, have you discovered any new things about the text as you are rehearsing it? And while we’re at it, let’s address the elephant in the theatre… you and Mikhail are ten years older; many who know the play may think you are too old for your respective roles – how are you addressing this?
Oh yes. Again, we’re back to the weird feeling – “it’s the play, Jim, but not as we know it!” We’ve changed in ten years; the world has changed in ten years and so our interpretation of the play has changed. As you correctly point out, we’re ten years older and technically ten years too old for the parts. BUT we’ve found that our real-world ages give a whole new perspective on the situation and dialogue.
The petty becomes pettier, the anger is rooted deeper, the despair is more harrowing and horrific. However human sentiments are human sentiments whether you’re 20 or 60 – it’s how you deal with them that differs. This play is so well-written that the transition is easy – different, but easy. We haven’t had to rewrite anything – we just left out any mention of ages. The play takes place over different time periods anyway. We did have long and hard discussions about whether we should recast, so we first re-read the play and then realised that our extra ten years change very little to the ‘believability’ of the narrative – it adds more pathos though.
Ultimately, we are really happy to finally have the chance to present it to an audience, so they can see for themselves that this is a tragic yet beautiful love story about choices and dark mental issues that should be talked about…
Unifaun Theatre Company Supported by Times Events will staging Stitching at the Teatru Manoel Studio Theatre on 14th, 15th, 16th, 19th, 21st and 23rd September 2018, featuring the original cast of Pia Zammit and Mikhail Basmadjian, with direction by Christopher Gatt. Tickets are priced at €20 and are available via the Teatru Manoel website at www.teatrumanoel.com.mt
Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi