29 January 2019
Masquerade Theatre’s artistic director Anthony Bezzina explains why he’s thrilled to be presenting this multi-award-winning comedy, in his interview with Laura Bonnici, for The Sunday Times of Malta.
There are few plays that have received the distinction of an Olivier award; even fewer that have also been adapted into a major Hollywood movie. Patrick Marber’s internationally-acclaimed comedy Closer, however, can boast both. This black comedy, as dark as it is hilarious, holds up a mirror to how people in the modern world struggle with the very notion of love – a universal theme that has secured the play’s ongoing global success over the two decades since its premiere in London in 1997, and earned it both the Evening Standard’s Best Comedy Award and the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play. Translated since into 30 languages and adapted into a major feature film starring Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen, Closer has been performed to riveted audiences in most countries around the world. And now it will be staged in Malta, much to the delight of local theatre audiences.
“As big fans of Patrick Marber’s work, we are very happy to have obtained the rights to perform this play,” says Masquerade’s artistic director Anthony Bezzina. “And we are delighted to be staging Closer as Masquerade’s next production of the season. “Closer is a play that has stood the test of time and can be classified as a classic – particularly in the contrast between the elegant construction and rawness of the language it uses – and so it is the perfect choice to follow our highly-acclaimed production of another classic, Amadeus.” In fact, Bezzina, who is directing the production, considers Marber’s use of language to be on a par with other great classical playwrights.
“Our staging ideas have changed and will keep on changing and developing as the actors and I discover, through repetition, the vast wealth and richness of Marber’s language – which is very much comparable to that of Pinter and Strindberg.”
As with these other theatre trailblazers, Marber also unflinchingly tackles themes such as love, sex, honesty and betrayal. Following the story of Dan, Alice, Anna and Larry and their exploits as their four lives intertwine, Closer epitomises the modern struggle to find intimacy. “There are several recurring themes in Closer, including sexual desire and jealousy, love and passion, betrayal and feeling. It is about us humans and the way we are,” explains Bezzina. “Ultimately, Closer dramatises the way in which millions of us recall intimate relationships, or our ‘sequence of moments – as Marber himself puts it.” Bezzina hopes to convey Closer’s intimacy and truth, as per Marber’s original play rather than the adapted movie script, to Malta’s theatre audiences via a simple stage design and the raw performances of the stellar local cast.
“Closer is a play that has a raw feel to it which must be conveyed to the audience through the ability of the actor at any given moment – with no takes, retakes or edits. To assist our actors in this, we have a simplistic but highly effective set designed by Aldo Moretti, which fits perfectly with our intimate theatre space at the Blue Box, and I have added lighting design to reflect the time of day.” Featuring some of Malta’s best performance talent, namely Mikhail Basmadjian, Jean-Marc Cafa, Nadia Vella and Alexandra Camilleri Warne, the cast is more than up to the challenges presented by Marber’s classic. “I have worked with all four actors before,” says the director. “In fact, Nadia and Jean-Marc were my students and practically grew up here at Masquerade. I am very proud of them – of all four of them – as the show is a challenge, but they have taken it on brilliantly. The synergy between the characters must be perfect, and it is. This is a great team of players.”