Land of the Big Word Factory is the latest production from theatre group Theatre Anon. First performed at the Ziguzajg Festival last November, it is being revived for two public performances only at Teatru Salesjan on the 5th and 6th May, as part of the Nuna Palk family theatre season.
Theatre Anon was set up in 1994 by a group of performers and theatre makers coming from different theatrical backgrounds who got together with the aim of producing highly entertaining and creative experiences. In most of their productions, the members of the group have contributed directly to the various aspects of the creative process – from concept and stage direction to set, costumes, and lighting design. Theatre Anon has put up a wide variety of productions. They have adapted classical texts such as Agamemnon, Candide, La Bête and Metamorphosis and worked on more contemporary texts by Samuel Becket and Steven Berkoff. Theatre Anon have also been successful at devising original text-based works, working with various communities, and engaging physical and puppetry skills. The 2010 site-specific work Ospizio, devised by the group, was critically acclaimed.
“What attracted us first to Land of the Big Word Factory was its clever, seemingly simple story of a land where people have to eat words before they can say them” says Anon member Pierre Stafrace. “This places a lot of emphasis on what people, especially poor people who can afford to buy only a few words, say to each other and on the emotions which they want to convey. We felt that the story opened up a lot of creative and artistic opportunities which we were keen to explore.”
The production follows quite closely the original book La Grande Fabrique de Mots by Agnes de Lestrade and the characters and the set are highly influenced by Valeria Docampo’s illustrations in the book. “We felt that puppets would help to maintain the magical qualities of the book,” adds Stafrace, “and it gave us the opportunity to learn some new skills. We also combined puppetry with projections and we have actors interacting with the puppets.”
The group acknowledges that making the puppets and the scenery, apart from the costumes and the props, from scratch was very time-consuming and presented some technical challenges, yet the hard work paid off and they are very happy with the result. “The production received a very good response during Ziguzajg – especially from the younger audience members – and it’s wonderful to be repeating it within the Nuna Palk cooperation between Teatru Salesjan and Culture Venture.”
The production features original music by Jes Psaila. “Chris (Gatt, director) gave me the background and storyline of the play and an idea of what he wanted so I went home and came up with what resulted in the main theme,” says Psaila. “I just played, thinking about what we had discussed, and the musical idea took shape. The best ideas, in my case, happen when I’m thinking least and not strategically trying to work out what the music should be for that specific scene,” he adds. “I usually just impulsively react to what I’m seeing, and the dialogue of course, and I find that the first musical ideas that come to mind, with some tweaking, work best.”
Land of the Big Word Factory features Liliana Portelli, Pierre Stafrace, Charlotte Grech and Paula Fleri-Soler, with original music by Jes Psaila and directed by Chris Gatt. Performances are at the Teatru Salesjan on the 5th and 6th of May at 6.30pm. Tickets available from www.tsmalta.com/tickets