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News • February 8 2004

Performing ‘live’

Clare Agius is such a popular personality that her persona and free spiritedness have almost come to symbolise an era. Her immediately recognisable face lurches behind every corner.
Clare’s ever-popular ‘Siesta,’ provides afternoon entertainment for thousands, and over the past decade she has graced our TV sets and stages with a variety of majestic performances.
Clare’s pictures has now become immortalised on go mobile advertising material, but while her image is flaunted widely, she would often rather return to her first love, theatre. On stage she has played a number of major roles and among her favourites were Juliet in Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ Yerma, in the play of that name by Federico Garcia Lorca, Portia in ‘The Merchant of Venice,’ a one-woman show called ‘The Serpent,’ her three month tour of Europe and India with ‘Kandor’ a psychological drama and more recently as Mary in Oreste Calleja’s ‘Festa bil-Bandieri.’ Clare Agius plays a dumb neighbour in Actinghouse Productions’ comedy ‘A Slight Accident,’ at St James Cavalier starting this Friday.

What first inspired you to act, any family inspiration?
Way back in secondary school I found myself accidentally on a stage performing the role of Elise in Moliere’s ‘The Miser.’ I guess there was no turning back, as I loved the adrenaline rush as I performed that night in front of an audience. Carmel S Aquilina, the director told me I had a very good voice projection and thought I should apply at the MTADA. I didn’t know what it was at that time, but it all happened so quickly. I was admitted after an audition and spent the next five years training to what later became my passion.

Do you get the chance to see theatre abroad? If so, what do you look for?
Yes I do. Since the age of 17 I’ve been traveling mainly to London to see theatre. I started with famous musicals like ‘Phatom of the Opera’ and ‘Les Miserable,’ but later got stuck to fringe theatres and the experimental work which goes on at places like Old Vic (Waterloo). I’ve also seen some fantastic work at the Tolwood Festival (Munich) and some other European cities. I look more for alternative, experimental work which inspires my vision and creation.

Are there actors (Maltese or worldwide) you admire?
I start with Carmen Azzopardi who fascinated me with her grace on stage when I was a kid. Nowadays I’ve moved on to a different kind of theatre and I admire mostly actors (not necessarily well-known) who are always creating new work and aiming towards being versatile with themselves as well as their work.

What would you like to see done to achieve a higher quality theatre and attract more people to the shows in Malta?
10 years ago not half of what goes on today existed and I think we have worked very hard to achieve that. Every weekend there is more going on than one can actually have the time or money to go and see. What could help us more is the number of performances which, unfortunately, due to a lack of funds and not large enough audiences have to be so limited. More often than not we spend weeks rehearsing and before we even have time to settle in a role, it’s all over. If theatre is to improve support to run a show longer is necessary.

Of all the roles you have played so far which is your most memorable, and why?
‘Salome,’! although I still think that had I to do it again I would understand and hopefully project the character better. But I did act with one of my favourite actors and friend Ray Calleja and to feel in tune with an actor on such a level that you feel their every breath, is not an easy thing to find.

Your next play is 'A Slight Accident,' can you tell me something about your role?
Yes of course. First of all, it’s been and still is so much fun. I found myself thoroughly enjoying working with Irene Christ and Stefan Cachia Zammit and having Connie Crombholz directing has been a trip of laughter, yet there is so much detail and depth. We started working on my character as this dumb neighbour whose only excitement comes from watching ‘soaps,’ since her husband provides no entertainment whatsoever. She has learned to shut off his nagging and chooses instead to keep a superficial smiley front. Throughout the play she has time to observe his character in detail for the first time and becomes more aware of the situation she’s been living in, which leads her to react the way she does. More will definitely be discovered by the time we get to the first performance.

You keep yourself extremely busy, do you prefer TV work to theatre? If so, why?
TV is definitely more work than theatre, at least with my role of both producer and presenter, however, I can never give up theatre for the simple reason that there’s no comparison to performing ‘live’ in front of an audience. Although in both there’s an element of performing, I keep them quite apart and manage both as best I can. I have become more choosy in selecting the roles I want to play and with whom since the hours one dedicates to theatre are quite long and not financially rewarding.

What future do you see for the theatre in Malta?
I think we need to take our work abroad and come back with fresh inspiration because otherwise the theatre scene will soon become a mass production of theatre companies and actors blindly moving forward without aiming at bettering themselves and our visions in the process.


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