Although the theatre season soon closes officially, there is one production currently being staged that is worth checking out – GhostWriter, which is being staged by FM Productions and DNA Theatres at St James Cavalier. Directed by Polly March, Ghost Writer is that rare phenomenon – a spine-chiller that also raises the laughs. Black comedy is not easy to get right, but playwright David Tristram has been hailed a master of the genre. The play brings together an unlikely cast of characters that all have one thing in common: they are suspected of having murdered their host’s wife. Oh, and the dead wife is also present in spirit form – seen only by her husband Edward, of course.
The perfect light-hearted play for those who enjoy dark comedy, I saw this last weekend and I left theatre with a smile on my face. The cast includes perennial favourites Edward Mercieca and Alan Montanaro and both of them bring in that element of slapstick that the Maltese audience usually laps up. When these two actors wind up on the same stage, the laughs are doubled and Sunday’s audience was having a whale of a time, judging by the continuous guffaws.
Two pieces of advice: I found the script a tad over-stretched at times. Some of the repeated jokes can easily be left out, thus shaving about ten minutes off the play. The pseudo-spooky music that is used to herald the arrival of the ghost on stage is also slightly too much on the ears, particularly in a small space like St James Cavalier. Having said that, the cast have a definite chemistry between them and the audience reaps the benefit. The script includes some truly hilarious quips and you are guaranteed to leave the theatre in a good mood, so don’t miss out.
For this production Marika Mercieca returns to the stage after some years’ absence. I interviewed her about her role as Frances, one of the “suspects”.
What made you accept a part in Ghost Writer?
I think the main attraction was working with such a great cast. It’s not often that one gets to share the stage with actors such as Alan Montanaro, Edward Mercieca and Denise Mulholland. Also I’m really glad I took the plunge because I got to know Taryn Butler and Stefan Farrugia – also in the cast – who are two great actors and fun to boot!
How do you describe the production?
Interesting and fun; it reminds me a lot of Noel Coward’s Blythe Spirit and the script comes with some really witty lines and well-rounded characters.
What can you tell us about the character you’re playing?
I hope she’s everything I’m not!! She is conniving, ruthless, a cold calculating bitch with no scruples!
Which are the greatest challenges the role brings with it?
Well for me it’s getting back on the boards per se and getting back into the acting routine; rehearsals in the morning and evening added to an already busy schedule. The role itself is, of course, challenging and I am enjoying Frances tremendously. I always enjoy playing that kind of character.
How do you describe the humour in this play?
Dry and rather black actually, but it also has its farcical moments as you can imagine… after all, there is a ghost on stage, which none of the cast (bar one) can see!
Definitely Ruby’s…she’s the ghost and her lines are incredible.
How do you describe your own style of humour?
I suppose, dry. I’m not one of your “laugh out loud” people, like my husband Edward for example, who is very “LOL”!
When and how did you get into theatre?
My God, you are talking about a very long time ago you know! Started acting when I was a kid at school; I was always organising my friends to set up plays, writing scripts, directing and acting in them. Later on I became a member of the MADC and worked a lot both with them and with the Atturi Group. I was part of the first intake of junior students at MTADA the first drama school on the island.
Ghost Writer marks your return to the Stage – how did this come about?
Well, since I’m part of FM Theatre Productions, which is co-producing this show with DnA, I was involved in the casting process. The role of Frances hadn’t ben cast yet and Denise asked me if I would be interested in doing it myself… and i did!
What did you miss most from the stage?
I’ll let you know after our first night, I can’t say I missed going to rehearsals every day!!
Any butterflies because of your comeback?
Not particularly. The usual stuff, you know… worrying whether the lines will stick, but apart from that it’s a bit like riding a bike!
Can you share a funny on-stage mishap from a past production?
It’s alway a problem to actually pick one that’s really good… so much happens on stage in the course of a production that funny mishaps kind of become run of the mill. You’d probably get a more interesting answer from Alan and Edward, who are nothing but a pair of funny mishaps!
Does this mean that you are back on stage long-term? Any other theatre projects you are working on this season?
We’ll have to see about that! It depends what comes along. At least I know what to expect with my work load. Really and truly I have been more involved in the theatre than I have ever been, albeit as a producer rather than as an actor. I have some pretty big shows under my belt, including two pantos at the Manoel, half a dozen musicals and a variety of other productions.
Which has been your most memorable production so far?
Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. Lovely part and playing a great female Shakespeare role is always an honour.
Is there a particular role you’d like to take?
Another great Shakespeare role for exactly the same reason: Lady M.
How have you seen the local theatre scene change through the years?
It has really changed and for the better. The productions these days have become much more professional and the standard of acting has also improved. Producers invest more money in the shows because the audience has a high level of expectation and that is a very good thing indeed for the industry.
The best bit about acting is?
The applause at the end of the show!
And the worst?
Drying on stage…which is what we call forgetting where the hell you are on stage!
Ghost Writer will be performed at St James Cavalier this weekend on Friday May 25th and Sunday 27th (no performance on Saturday 26th), with the additional performances on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd June. Ticket prices are €17.00. For bookings call 2122 3216 / 2122 3200; email email@example.com or visit www.sjcav.org.
Edited versions of the review and the interview were published on The TV Guide (The Times of Malta).