Pete’s mummy has gone to the stars and his daddy is off being a rock star. But never fear! This ten year old and his unique pet Splint live a simple life in a quiet little village, guided by the neighbours on their street. One day, a storm erupts and an unexpected visitor finds his way to Pete’s doorstep. This meeting is only the beginning of what fast becomes a special friendship and adventure – an adventure forged by the many stories sent to Pete by his extraordinary mother!
Join Pete on this journey as he learns to face the struggles that life chucks at him!
Fresh off the success of Inez kienet Perf(etta) and Pietru l-Lupu, Studio 18 are back with Dear Pete. In a nutshell , Dear Pete is a play targeted towards a younger audience but discusses the hardships of loss and growing up. Intrigued with the concept of how they plan to exhibit such slice of life themes to younger generations, The Yuppie contacted Studio 18 and discussed their prospects. A huge shoutout goes to Katya Azzopardi (Musician), Laura Buhagiar (Puppeteer), Daniel Formosa (Actor), Nicholas Gambin (Production Assistant), Robyn Vella (Production Manager) and Alex Weenink (Actor) for giving prompt and theme specific answers. In their own words, here is what Dear Pete is all about.
What brought about the concept for Dear Pete?
This is probably the hardest question to answer when it comes to devised theatre, because the idea that you start with is never the same as the final product that you end with.
Last year was Roald Dahl’s anniversary from his birth (September 1916), and because of that we came up with the idea to adapt his novel The BFG for the stage and incorporate music with it. We contacted the Roald Dahl foundation to see if this was possible, but they felt that it was too soon to create such a production, because the live-action film version of the book was released that same year.
As a result, we decided to keep the skeleton of the narrative of the book, but tried to find a way of adapting it to a Maltese setting. To stick to the elements of magic present in the story, we started researching about Maltese myths and creatures that form part of the Maltese culture.
Eventually, we moved on to focus more on how the Big Friendly Giant goes to Dream Country, where he captures dreams and keeps them to later be used on children. With this idea in mind, the project was titled “The Unconscious”, where the concept was to have three dream sequences all revolving around one boy.
So, in order to try and capture what happens in the world of dreams, we all started writing down our dreams in journals. Once we had a lot of material, we narrowed it down to the few dreams that we wanted to work with. And because a lot of the dreams had something to do with loss and fear, we decided on the theme of bereavement. Then, after several reworks and different versions, we established a narrative plot for what is now “Dear Pete”.
Why did you decide to target the particular audience of 6 to 10 year olds?
We as a company feel that there is a lack of theatre for that age group in Malta. And if there is a gap in the market, you are going to try and fill it. A lot of our past projects have targeted children (The Brat and That, Pietru u l-Lupu) and teenagers (#babydaddy, Inez Kienet Perf(etta). Ultimately, it all comes back to the importance of exposing these age groups to theatre and the performing arts.
Children are a very interesting audience to have. If they do not like something, they will openly say it, and it is very difficult to keep them interested and entertained. But at the same time, children at that age are usually buzzing with creativity and imagination, and sometimes understand what they are watching better than the adults.
The main protagonist of the piece, Pete, is a boy coming to terms with some pretty heavy issues – loss, grief, growing up. These are things that children between six and ten will slowly start learning about as they continue to grow older. Therefore, the show introduces them to a child like them having to go through things that they will have to experience and deal with at some point or other in their lives. What is so special is that we are doing it in a way that is captivating and entertaining, as well as educational and enlightening.
What has been the most interesting aspect of creating the piece, and if any, what challenges did you face?
For starters, the project is very much our own, in that we have given input to almost every aspect of the show. We have seen this project grow from the ground up – from writing the script, to creating the set, to scoring new and original music. With devised theatre, it is always a matter of playing with different things and seeing what works and what does not. The pieces that work are then kept and moulded until the final project emerges. There is always a certain sense of satisfaction that you receive when you look at the final project and remember how much time and effort was put into getting it where it is now.
One of the mains challenges we had with the piece is that there are so many moving parts. Everyone has their own personal props to use, aside from the set pieces and the musical accompaniments. Working on these things in isolation is already not an easy task, but the real challenge comes when everything has to ultimately come together.
It becomes a matter of reworking or changing certain things until you reach that stage where all the cogs fit into place and the machine starts working. And once you achieve that, you have to work on being able to replicate the synchronicity during each and every performance, while still keeping it fresh and spontaneous. Ultimately, because it is devised theatre, every time we run the show certain elements do change, so we as a team have to be on our toes to make sure that these changes do not throw the performance.
The main theme of the piece also posed a bit of a challenge. Because the topic of bereavement is very delicate, it was very important that we conveyed it in the right way. We actually brought in a psychologist, who helped us make sure that we were doing the topic justice and tackling it in an appropriate way.
As The Yuppie is a portal with an audience made up of university students, how could they relate to the way the story is being told and therefore come watch the show?
People who watch theatre are allowed a sort of ‘escape’ from everyday life. They become immersed in the world of the piece, and are taken on a journey by different characters and circumstances. There is always the stigma that as you grow up you start losing your inner child, and stop being as creative and imaginative as you used to be. Instead, we as a team believe that your inner child is never lost, it just simply needs an outlet for it to be set free.
The play also has different levels of meaning, and allows an older audience to be reminded about certain facts of life. At its core, the message of the show is universal. We all experience the same emotions that Pete does at different points in our life. We all dream and make-believe in different ways, and we are never too old to believe in the power of magic. Regardless of the age, everybody enjoys a good story and everyone needs a bit of magic in their life.
Studio 18 is known for its fresh and innovative concepts. What can we look forward to seeing in the near future?
In March, some of the Studio 18 members will be taking part in Evita, a production by Teatru Astra. The company is supporting the project as part of its commitment to the local community. This is a initiative that seeks to grow the musical theatre scene in Gozo.
Further down the line, Teatru Aurora has also commissioned a new play. This work is being written by Simone Spiteri, and it also deals with current affairs and youth.
As for next season, #watchthisspace.
Catch Dear Pete at Spazju Kreattiv on the 24th, 25th and 26th of February.
For more information click HERE.
To purchase tickets click HERE.
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