A window into Mario Azzopardi’s dark, dark soul

Before I read the script for Mario Azzopardi’s foul little play, I anticipated it would be rubbish (it is), cheap (it is) and vulgar (it is). But I was unprepared for the truly abysmal level of depravity and obscenity it reveals in the foetid mind of its sad, spiteful author.

It’s not actually readable, and, unless you’re forced to for some reason or other, I’d highly recommend staying well away from it. It’s boring, predictable, and peopled with the kind of cartoon character stereotypes that have infested Maltese “drama” for far too long.

There’s a stereotypically gormless maid, whose family members are all shouty, ignorant, uneducated, grasping buffoons; a supposedly “noble” family whose members are all foul-mouthed, promiscuous, back-stabbing, venomous serpents, each more despicable and contemptible than the next.

None of these characters rings true, not a single one is even close to being convincing. They are all clearly drawn exclusively from the sleaze percolating insistently in the author’s own mind, and he uses the same few contrived devices – obscenity, duplicity, greed and hate – to make up for the play’s total lack of wit, intelligence, talent or creativity.

Azzopardi has defended this dreadful effort as “satire”. I suggest he go back to school to sit down with a dictionary for a few years before being allowed anywhere near the Manoel Theatre again.

This is not satire. It is a barely-disguised, underhand and cowardly, attack on assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and her family. It repeats and expands on some of the worst, most vicious lies that Azzopardi and his ilk have told about her, both during her lifetime and after her brutal murder. It uses false statements that were attributed to her by her enemies in the PL government, and it attempts to perpetuate the hideous insinuation that her family had something to do with her murder.

I have never before read anything I believe should be banned – no matter how offensive some people might find them. Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine that came under terrorist attack in 2011, 2015 and 2020, has published cartoons and reports that many find offensive and provocative. And yet, public opinion swelled to their support after the attacks, and especially in 2015 when 12 employees of the magazine were killed, even though prior to this French government officials had often lamented the magazine’s “pouring oil on fire”.

Its predecessor, Hara Kiri, had been shut down and banned in 1970 after it made fun of the death of former French President Charles de Gaulle, and both the original (in various iterations) and Charlie Hebdo itself, which was shut down in 1981 and resurrected in 1992, have been sued, lambasted and attacked on numerous occasions.

The targets of their mockery range from Islamic terrorists and religious extremists to far right agitators, Russian president Vladimir Putin, Israel, the Vatican, and the British royal family, but have often also seemed to target the disabled, the victims of plane crashes and earthquakes and even the Rwandan genocide, if only obliquely.

Some of their cartoons are indeed offensive, even to most tolerant among us, but no right-minded person would dream of calling for Charlie Hebdo to be banned today. That’s because behind every one of those cartoons is a sharp wit and a fundamental truthfulness. They’re funny, provocative and meaningful.

The cheap vulgarity of Azzopardi’s pathetic attempt at what he describes as “satire” is none of those things. It’s based on lies, deliberate, malicious fabrications that were spread around the island to try to destroy a valiant woman journalist attempting on her own, to hold a corrupt, evil government to account. For the first time in my life, I believe this foul excrescence of illiteracy should be torn up and its author forced to apologise to the nation.

It perpetuates calumnies, revels in hate and attempts to fix the most wicked lie of all – that Caruana Galizia’s family were somehow involved in the murder – into the minds of people who watch the play or read the script. It is such a glaringly obvious ploy that if I were a member of Caruana Galizia’s family, I would definitely sue him.

Reading the dreadful script, the cheap, boring plot that is nothing more than a vehicle of pure venom, I felt myself cringe in embarrassment for Azzopardi. The nakedness of his bitter loathing for Caruana Galizia, and his glee at (he thinks) having succeeded in tearing her and her family to shreds publicly yet without consequence, is beyond pitiable.

With every word I read, I pictured his coarse, fleshy features dripping with the oily sweat of malicious glee, his half-open mouth drooling into the sticky mass of his straggly grey beard.

There is nothing uglier nor more revolting than the sight of a bitter old man losing himself in a frenzy of vicious spite. And the only thing Azzopardi’s awful little play offers is just that: a clear view into the dark soul of the author himself.

UPDATE: Teatru Manoel has cancelled the production of this so-called play. According to Azzopardi, the actors involved pulled out because of “threats of violence”. Of course, it’s much more likely that they suddenly realised that participating in such a travesty would brand them forever with the same stain of toxicity as its author. And indeed, Teatru Manoel said it took the decision to cancel the show due to the public outcry and made no mention of “threats” of any kind.

                           
                               
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viv
viv
1 month ago

Sounds like it has the intellectual appeal of a Christmas panto, and will undoubtedly finish in the trash can.

christian
christian
1 month ago
Reply to  viv

I think that would be a disservice to panto.

Andrew
Andrew
1 month ago

So you didn’t like it?

Vincent Busuttil
Vincent Busuttil
1 month ago

I am imagining seeing this fascist enjoying himself while reading this article.

Philip Grima
1 month ago

A well deserved thrashing of a despicable low life. Prosit and welcome back.

Reader
Reader
1 month ago

I tend to regard articles published by the Shift very highly, and while I do not disagree with most of the points which this writer is making, I do think that this article lacks a certain level of dispassionate sensibility and a weakness with regards to ‘presentation’. The article is more fond of attacking and depreciating the writer (almost in an ad hominem fashion), rather than simply outlining the possible faults with the play or with the plays nature. As a staunch defender of freedom of speech and expression, I would affirm that you have every right to disagree with Azzopardi and to also outline why his play and agenda is problematic — and I might actually concede to this and agree with you — but it is quite hollow and canting to affirm that this play should simply be “torn up” and to oblige the playwright to “apologise”. While, as you say, this play may lack “sharp wit and a fundamental truthfulness”, your task — and the task of journalists who think so — is to outline the problematic nature of this play so that the people may not be deceived (if this is one of your concerns, and rightly so). Even if, say, this play is untrue, unjust, and deceptive — and I’m not denying it is — it should not be censored. It should simply be “attacked” and “exposed” for what it “is”. Let the public judge, in the end. What you can (and are obliged to do) is to help the public have a more critical and faithful perception.

Reader
Reader
1 month ago
Reply to  Blanche Gatt

Once again, in what I said, I never quite denied that this is “a disgusting piece of drivel aimed at perpetuating lies and falsehoods about a murdered journalist”. My point was different. My first point was that you could have made a more level-headed argument and brought your point across anyhow. Certain phrases, such as the description: “a bitter old man”, almost verge on the Ad Hominem as I pointed out (even if this was not your intention). What difference does it make if he’s “old”…? Secondly, my primary point of of disagreement is with your belief that this play should be “torn up”. If a piece of art is “untrue” and might also be regarded as perpetuating falsehoods, driven by a particular agenda, should it be thoroughly censored? Of course, here it is also debatable as to the nature of “untruth”, since it is “art” we are dealing with, and, in art, one can attempt to undermine “truth” through “metaphor” or “satire”. It is not as straightforward (as I’m sure you’re aware). But this aside, if you believe (and you might have all the right reasons to believe so) that Azzopardi’s play is “a disgusting piece .. perpetuating falsehood”, then your duty as a journalist is to simply point this out. It is your duty to help the public become aware of the flaws and the problematic nature of the play. Your task is to try to guide the public so that “truth” is preserved to the highest possible degree. You are trying to do this here, but you go overboard when you claim that this piece should be “torn up”. Allow the people to freely decide and make their judgement. Critical judgement would not be possible if this piece was simply censored!

Reader
Reader
1 month ago
Reply to  Blanche Gatt

It would be highly hypocritical of me if I were to tell you, or anyone, what opinions they should or should not express. Rather, that was precisely my point all long! That we should allow others to express themselves, be it through articles, and also, as in this case, though art. In fact, on numerous occasions in my comments, I actually commended you and affirmed that you are right and correct to speak out against what you believe is “false drivel”. I simply pointed out that the claim that the play should be “torn out” is untenable, for a number of reasons. The primary one being the last point I made (i.e. “that critical judgement would not be possible if this piece was simply censored.”). I interpreted you affirming this (i.e. the “torn up” claim) almost “literally”. I interpreted you arguing for a form of censorship, and for an apology, with which I both disagree.

With regards to the “old man” comment, my point is that this description does not really contribute to your argument nor does it in any way justify it. It is there to enhance, but it does not do so critically. Someone being “old” does not imply that they are also someone who writes false claims and has an agenda. They’re thoroughly unrelated notions. Perhaps this might appear pedantic — but the nature of the “person” (i.e. for example their “age”) is not itself a valid weapon to use against the actions they commit.

Finally, again, I clarify that I do not and was not in any way attacking your right to comment or to express yourself through an article. You have every right to do that! I was simply disagreeing with a point you made, and a particular approach you used at one specific point. I’m actually very glad to see writers expressing themselves and attempting to steer the public in a more critical direction.

Eddy Azzopardi
Eddy Azzopardi
1 month ago

In Dutch there is a good word for this “player”…lijkenpikker.
Lijkenpikker…corpse pecker.

carmelo borg
1 month ago

BOYCOTT BOYCOTT İNHALLUH JİZVOGA WAHDU U JOHROG İL MİBGHED Lİ GHANDU Lİ TİDHER F WİCCU BHAL META GHAJJAR LİL METSOLA

Louis Amato-Gauci
Louis Amato-Gauci
1 month ago

If Mario Philip Azzopardi truly believed that his play was a worthy work of art, why didn’t he produce it himself, on his own dime, in a community theatre somewhere other than the Manoel? Certainly he has enough connections in media and elsewhere to spread the word about its ‘brilliance’. The fact is, this was nothing more than a piece of fascist-style propaganda.

I urge all of you to say no more about this piece of garbage. It will hopefully soon be forgotten, as has the playwright himself, on this side of the pond.

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