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.