UK playwright and Pinter Prize winner Brad Birch has been commissioned by Malta’s first national theatre, Teatru Malta, to work with Maltese translator Immanuel Mifsud to create a play that tackles three themes: football, citizenship and identity. Il-loghba or Game will be performed in Malta’s national football stadium in June. Our Capturing Valletta student journalist, Sam Farrugia, caught up with Brad at a scriptwriting workshop in Valletta.
Brad is passionate about plays – you can see this from the way he clutches and swipes back at his hair as he goes through the stages of theatre history during a workshop for aspiring scriptwriters. He speaks with great enthusiasm. It’s impossible not to be swept along.
"For me, as a member of the audience, I don’t always go to watch stories that make me laugh or make me feel happy. There are many plays that are sad and complex," he says. "They are still a good experience, and that’s what I want for my audience."
Brad’s Valletta 2018 play, Game, tackles football, citizenship and identity. It aims to explore what these things mean for Maltese people, it will be performed in Maltese – but when I speak to Brad, he admits to me that he hasn’t had any time yet to watch any Maltese theatre. Even so, he says he is getting a feel for how important history and language are to our Maltese identity.
"Malta’s history feels rich and along, it feels constantly present," Brad says. "And I think that’s really exciting. It’s really unique. I’m interested in the bilingual culture of Malta. It means I can engage with artists and audiences in Malta."
Getting under the skin of Maltese identity is not the only challenge facing Brad in this project. He will need to develop a show for an open-air arena with a capacity of nearly 17,000 people, the Ta’ Qali national football stadium.
However, Brad is undaunted. He alludes to the history of Greek theatre. "It feels as like we are tapping back to how plays were originally experienced 3,000 years ago," he says.
Brad says that this is the perfect time for new voices to make themselves heard. Maltese theatre has benefited from Valletta 2018 Capital of Culture funds. The newly established Teatru Malta, which has commissioned Brad to create this piece, is a case in point.
But Brad is also anxious that projects like his are not just one-offs.
‘These “enforced events” are really useful in kicking stuff off and drawing attention,’ he says. ‘But the key is always legacy and ensuring that what is made available at this time is sustainable.’