Video Interview: Malcolm Galea

Date of Birth: 31/10/1979

Where do you live: Żebbuġ

Status: Married + 2 kids

Star Sign: Scorpio

Occupation: Writer / Actor / Producer / Theatre Jack of all Trades

Can you give us a brief outline of your career so far?

I started soon after graduating when I wrote a one-act comedy in 2003 and I directed it at the MADC One-Act Play Festival. I was then asked to write MADC’s Christmas pantomime.

Highlights so far include my show ‘Porn – the Musical’, which won the Off-West End Award for Best New Musical and is being staged again between 22-24 August at Pjazza Teatru Rjal in Valletta, and my ‘More or Less Theatre’ series of plays, one of which will get its US debut in November.

We all need someone to inspire and to believe in us. Who is your inspiration?

It’s not as much of an inspiration but someone who believes in me, I would have to say my wife. I will go for the boring answer but if it wasn’t for her kicking my ass repeatedly I would not be doing what I am doing today. I would be a lot better at video games but would not be writing.

I spend all day writing and then she comes home and asks me what I have done so far. She is a teacher so I show her and she is like ‘try harder tomorrow!’ It is not that bad, but I don’t think I would be writing if it were not for Angele.

How did your passion for acting kick off?

I don’t know. It wasn’t so much of a passion really. I was very introverted as a kid and I remember being 14 years old and realising that if my character didn’t change a bit I was going to have a problem.

So I started getting into theatre, doing some acting and I think that when you are basically an introverted person, it is easier to lose yourself in a character. You become the character and wear the character as a disguise. It is a technique which I still use. I would be very reluctant to show the real me on stage, so I adopt a character.

After a while, I realised that I couldn’t really stop. People kept offering me stuff to do and things became even more interesting. I also became a writer because I wasn’t being given the roles that I wanted. Thus, I started writing my own roles. Over time, I realised that I much prefer writing to acting.

What is your favourite role, actor or producer?

My favourite play is ‘The Importance of being Earnest’ by Oscar Wilde. I like being the straight character in a comedy and in this play it is Jack Worthing. I would love to play that. Oscar Wilde is my favourite writer but there are many contemporary writers now who have great work that I really admire.

Regarding my favourite actor, I don’t really think in terms of favourite actors. When I watch a play or a movie, I look at the characters. So the actor is just the person who is playing the character. If you are into fashion, during a fashion show, you look at the dresses the models are wearing and not the models themselves. So, the actor is just modelling the character that was written for them. Sometimes, an actor will do well in a part that suits them and an actor won’t do as well in a part that suits them less. It doesn’t really reflect on the actor. An actor’s job is just to model the script.

And as for producers, I am not even aware of many producers by name. A producer is essentially a business person. There are those who do the job right and there are those who don’t.

Walter Benjamin said: “All human knowledge takes the form of interpretation.” How would you give a personal interpretation to your performances?

That sounds like a very wise quote. I am not going to argue with Walter Benjamin. But I guess how I interpret my performances, as I mentioned before, is that I try to become the character.

I believe that honesty is the best policy, in life and in everything else. So when you are playing a character, you should honestly portraying a character. If I was in this guy’s situation, if I had his same upbringing, this guy’s life, this guy’s problems, this is exactly how I would behave. It is not how I want people to see me, I don’t even think about that. You just become the character.

If you are honest, if you actually portray the character, you don’t act as the character but you become the character. You feel the emotions. You don’t act angry, you become angry, at the things that are happening. There is no really wrong way of playing the character which is why I really love acting. Even if you are a very well-known character like Hamlet, where Hamlet has the dialogue and Hamlet has his problems. So everyone who plays Hamlet has to play Hamlet with the plot in mind. However, every actor who will play this character is going to bring their own baggage into it. Every time you watch Hamlet with different actors, you are going to watch a slightly different portrayal and each and every one of them, if done honestly, is going to be correct, and one which you can associate yourself with.

You have been in a number of productions. Do you get nervous before going on stage? How do you overcome it?

Unfortunately, not as much anymore. I love the fear. When I leave for a play it is like I am going to work. It is just how it is. I am a bit of theatre junkie, I do try and look for challenges that I have not done before. So, sometimes, I do get the jitters before the first performance, and I like that. There is the rush.

In June, I was in a play called ‘The Accidental Pervert’ at the St James Cavalier. It was the first time that I was in a one-man comedy show. It was just me for one hour, talking about what the accidental pervert does. I remember that just before the first performance I sat on the stage for ten minutes before the audience walked in.

The first time I did feel a bit jittery but you have to overcome it, mentally. You give yourself a mental bitch-slap, if you will. When I played Dave at the Manoel Theatre, there were some 600 people in the audience and you do get a bit nervous. But then you say to yourself, I have acted in a play in London, so this should be fine. Then, when I was in London and I was doing a play in a small theatre, I had the jitters and I told myself, “I have done the Manoel Theatre with 600 people, so this is fine.” You just have to counter-act in your head.

We all know that you should say “break a leg” when you wish a performer good luck. Are you that superstitious? Do you have any lucky charms or is that not your thing?

I think that the only people who are more superstitious than actors, would have to be sailors. I don’t know why, but generally actors are not very religious people. And I think when you do away with religion, you must have some kind of supernatural beliefs, so they make it up.

You also don’t wear purple on stage, you don’t say Macbeth or you don’t quote the play, because that is supposed to be very unlucky. You don’t whistle and so many other things. Personally, I am not superstitious and I will happily walk under a ladder. Obviously I am not superstitious on stage either.

It is, however, fun to tease people who are. Usually it is the veterans, who are the most superstitious, so even talking with them during rehearsals, if you say something like ‘this part is kind of like Macbeth.’ They would be like ‘Don’t say that!’ and I would be like ‘What Macbeth? Oh sorry! Am I not supposed to say Macbeth?’ That is kind of fun.

When you are not working on a production, what do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?

I love spending time with my two boys. One of them is four and the other one is one. They are individually crazy. Since I often work from home, I get to spend a lot of time with my kids. I take them to school, I pick them up, and I am there a lot for them, which is great.

Some plays can be very child-friendly. So when I was doing my latest pantomime last December, my kids came to rehearsals with me and my eldest played with Little Red Riding Hood and sat on the Big Bad Wolf’s shoulders. It’s not a childhood that many kids have, which is nice.

I also enjoy watching a lot of theatre and I read a lot. As you can see I also like going to the gym. [shakes his head].

The theatre and acting scene in Malta, what’s your take on it?

I think it is doing very well. There are so many creative people who are working together now. I remember, when I first started, the logic was that if you had an idea, you wouldn’t share your ideas with others as someone might steal it.

Now, people are sharing their ideas and they are all getting together and creating some awesome stuff. And there is this collaborative effort, especially among the younger theatre practitioners. I expect more professionals working in theatre. Nobody works full-time in theatre, not even in London. Actors act but they will also teach drama or have their own productions or business.

In New York and other large cities, if you are an actor or musician and you have some sort of project, like recording an album, you have to forgo certain things. In Malta, we are a bit spoilt and are used to having a nice life. We want to buy our own property and perhaps have a large wedding. There are some things that we expect to do, that we take for granted, that we need to save up for.

The mentality is, however, changing and people are more into art. Every year I say ‘This is the best year for Maltese theatre’ and then next season comes along and I say ‘No, THIS is the Maltese theatre’s best season.’ And so far, every season has been better than the last and hopefully it will continue that way.