‘A broken fairytale for broken people’

This new play makes us question the nature of ‘happily ever after’
Becky Camilleri and Joseph Zammit in The Trials of Magnus MacCoffinkey. Photos: Elisa von Brockdorff

Audiences are invited to venture deep into the world of gothic fairy tales with The Trials of Magnus Coffinkey, an upcoming production by Give or Take theatre company that is set to run at Spazju Kreattiv.

Known for producing theatre with a purpose, this is the same company that gave us the award-winning and positively-reviewed 2022 Brighton Fringe show 0.0031% and the topical Waħda Minna. Staying true to style, their new production promises a thought-provoking experience. 

Co-written by husband-and-wife theatre duo Angele and Malcolm Galea, the play’s narrative is inspired by personal experience and based on interviews, and can be summed up as a hauntingly beautiful fairytale, shown from the perspective of a person dealing with a recent trauma.

“We get glimpses of the writer of the tale as she struggles to decide what happens next. We see that there’s a direct correlation between the story and the personal tragedy,” Malcolm says.

The drama of the story unfolds through first-person narration by the title character of Magnus Coffinkey. Malcolm describes the story as being both sad and beautiful, “a broken fairy tale for broken people”. But he says that audiences will also enjoy the story’s lighter side. 

“It’s got many funny moments. I think people who make you laugh can also make you cry harder. Because they make you like them, and then you realise what they’re going through.”

This marks the first time Malcolm and Angele are writing a stage play together. Some people write visually, but Angele, with her background and education rooted in piano performance and music theory, envisions where music has a place and purpose.

“Then Malcolm does the writing, I go back and change some parts and then he changes others… it’s a back and forth. Then we discuss where I think the music should be. It’s a very particular process,” she says.

Giving further insight into how they shared the writing duties, particularly the character motivations, Malcolm adds: “Angele tends to be more in tune with the emotional aspect of characterisation, whereas I’m more plot-driven. I tried to make it all fit together in a way that the audience doesn’t realise that a whole hour has gone by.” 

The play is being directed by Philip Leone-Ganado, locally best-known for his direction of the Shakespeare in the Pub series and last year’s Skieken f’Tiġieġ at the Valletta Campus Theatre.

“We specifically chose him because he has done similar work to this in the past, work that had that kind of beautiful direction, using symbolism and metaphor,” Malcolm says. 

Two of Malta’s most recognised faces in theatre, Becky Camilleri and Joseph Zammit make up the cast. With The trial of Magnus Coffinkey, the writers have gone against the current local trend for politically controversial and satirical scripts, choosing instead a personal story that is eminently relateable.

The show can be described as a “thinking piece”, a study of humanity and human fragility when it’s tested, broken and put back together again. Angele sums up the thoughts behind the play best: “There is still light and there is beauty in sharing difficult emotions with an audience. As humans, we function together, not in isolation. Together, we give each other compassion, strengths, empathy. These are things that I find are missing nowadays. Life has become very individualistic.” 

The Trials of Magnus Coffinkey runs between May 12 and 14 at Spazju Kreattiv, Valletta. Tickets available here. For other Sunday Circle magazine features, check out this interview with poker queen Ivonne Montealegre or ChatGPT: 4 ways to integrate in daily life.

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