Żepp is a Maltese monologue filled with symbolism, hidden meanings, and one which offers the audience insight into this character’s thought process. This piece was written and performed by Anton Saliba, directed by Chris Galea, and was presented to audiences in Maltese.
Upon entering Valletta Campus Theatre, you are introduced to this minimal, dull set design. Before the performance even starts, audiences are wondering what the four sections of the set design represent. As Żepp lets us into his mind, these distinct settings are given meaning.
Each space within the set represents personalities who are a part of his life. The premise of the story is encapsulated with the fact that Żepp is left fatherless at the age of nine. This traumatic event paves the way to how Żepp’s life unfolds, making it a crucial aspect of his life.
Through him re-visiting this event and sharing his experience with the audience, we gain some important insight into who his family is. The loss of his father truly encapsulates the grief and hardship that Żepp had to face. Being told that he was not allowed to grieve as he is the man of the family can be taken as the source of his emotional downfall.
Żepp is not a man who speaks his mind, rather, everything that is said needs to be taken in a symbolic context. For example, throughout the piece, a grenade is represented by an egg, and his nephew’s neck is symbolised by a tomato. As the piece progresses, more objects take on various connotations, leading up to the purposefully unclear ending.
By not telling us precisely what he means, Anton Saliba really creates that space for the audience members to fill in the blanks. The crushing of the tomato implies to the audience that something is happening, however, we only find out what the meaning of it is after. This creates a sense of uneasiness in the audience, as Żepp doesn’t always recount events clearly.
These moments where the audience is unsure of what Żepp is doing really play with the level of trust that is built between this character and the spectators. How can we trust this narrator, if he never truly says what he means? I found myself constantly looking for the underlying meaning in everything Żepp says and does.
The text itself takes you on a journey, where you get to experience both the ecstatic highs and the tremendous lows that Żepp is facing. The outburst in dialogue is something which, in my opinion, worked really well.
When Żepp transforms into other characters, a sense of comic relief is felt through the way he portrays them. However, Żepp’s emotional outbursts which seemingly come out of nowhere, also give the audience crucial insight. Żepp can enjoy the lighter side of life, but that doesn’t mean that the demons inside of him are no longer there.
This piece truly explores the effect that the outside world has on a human’s psyche. From work struggles to personal trauma, Żepp dissects those crucial moments which make a human, human. Żepp truly is a well-rounded character whose downfall was no one other than himself. This monologue truly encapsulates the importance of human connections and the ability to empathise.
All photos featured in this article were taken by Emma Grima and published with the theatre’s permission.