Friday, September 29, 2006

Love for the people's theatre

The Manoel Theatre in Valletta, one of Europe's oldest theatre still in use was built originally as a court theatre for the 'honest entertainment of the people' by Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena in 1731. I have fond memories of many a Maltese and foreign production at this wonderful small horseshoe shaped theatre with stalls decorated in gold. Be it light-hearted material such as the annual Malta Amateur Dramatic Company panto with its local political jibes or a foreign company's Hamlet, the theatre itself is always reason enough to ensure a pleasant evening. With my sister's involvement in theatre, I have been lucky enough to have been allowed backstage on various occasions. This has its own vibe.

Restoration works on the theatre's ceiling has just been completed and I hear that the removal of various layers of paint has revealed different shades of blue, darker towards the centre giving the ceiling a dome-like appearance. Restorers Mantella and Orsi from the Sante Guidi Restauri have been working on it for the last three years. 400 grammes of 24 carat leaves is purported to have been used to gild the theatre and restore it to its original lustre. The money for this has come from Din l-Art Helwa through HSBC sponsorship as well as from the Malta International Airport.

I guess at least some of the high airport taxes incurred on the Maltese using Luqa airport have gone to a great cause. I simply can't wait to have a look on my next visit to Malta in November. I can choose between a recital by one of Malta's leading guitarist Simon Schembri, a production of West Side Story or perhaps just go on the theatre museum's history tour.

Valletta G-House

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