Director Mario Philip Azzopardi wants to inflame supporters of the memory of Daphne Caruana Galizia, with a controversial play – Ix-Xiha (the old woman) – which is a direct reference to the last ever published lines of the murdered journalist.
The play survives a previous rejection by the Manoel Theater Board of Directors, which initially turned down Azzopardi’s two satirical plays, Min qatel lil Daphne? (Who killed Daphne?) and Ix-Xiħa, co-funded by a €20,000 grant from the Ministry of Finance to encourage plays in the Maltese language. They predate the assassination of Caruana Galizia.
Min qatel lil Daphne? had initially been blocked by the theater commission after a reading of the title and the script, the producer had declared to the public inquiry Caruana Galizia.
Azzopardi told the inquiry that even Ix-Xiha was first turned down after Manoel Theater artistic director Kenneth Zammit Tabona expressed concern about the script, where one of the characters is “a wealthy blogger, mother of four, whose character was too close to that of Daphne Caruana Galizia”.
Critics on Facebook and members of the Caruana Galizia family hit back at news that the Manoel Theater is staging the production of Azzopardi. Theater creator Philip Leone Ganado called the Manoel Theater’s decision “literally unbelievable”, implying the late journalist would be deliberately misrepresented given Azzopardi’s previous script for “Who Killed Daphne?”.
“There’s no way it can (not) be meant like her,” Leone Ganado said. “Be sure to check out the writer’s page, where he says so explicitly. There’s even a trailer, to disabuse you of any thoughts that the tone might raise it.
Journalist Manuel Delia later published a leaked version of Azzopardi’s screenplay, calling it “superficial, badly written and superficial, and it’s bad because it’s mean, full of hate, prejudice and incurable visceral violence and disturbing”.
“I am publishing the script as my way of protesting against this play. Mario Philip Azzopardi has the right to write and present this play. I have the right to be offended and to say so. One of the women in this poster plays a character called Jenny, a stand-in for Daphne Caruana Galizia,” Delia said.
The play will feature a deceased mother who, conversing with the audience, plots revenge on her four snobby children by disinheriting them in favor of the family servant and nanny. “One of the children is transparently Daphne Caruana Galizia or rather what Super One listeners imagine is Daphne Caruana Galizia,” Delia said. “She’s venal, mean, classist, incapable of empathy or any human emotion.”
In one of the lines intended to draw the public to Caruana Galizia’s last words published on her blog, the character of ‘Jenny’ says: “May your children die of cancer. There are scammers everywhere you see. A desperate situation. (“Jalla it-tfal tagħkom imutu kollha kemm huma bil-kanċer. Kull fejn tħares, ħallelin biss. SITWAZZJONI DDISPRATA.”)
Azzopardi has now said he will take legal action against the leak.
“Zammit Tabone campaigned against the script, and it finally reached the ears of the three judges investigating the Caruana Galizia murder. I will post the full testimony soon,” Azzopardi announced on Facebook.
Azzopardi said his other piece was commissioned before the assassination of Caruana Galizia on October 16, 2017. “The investigation wanted to know if the piece was intended as incitement against the right-wing blogger. I had to repeat myself. The play was never written. The intention was to write a satire in which DCG is found dead and after the police investigate the case they conclude that she died drowning in her own bile. But that never happened,” Azzopardi said today.
He said Ix-Xiha referred to the “blogger” and defended the work as satire. “In satire, nothing is sacred. Why should this be so. What is the meaning of “sacred” anyway? And how could [the inquiry] judge if they knew nothing of what they were talking about?