Alfred Buttigieg strongly believes that despite the clichés and stereotypes, artistic creativity has more to do with self-discipline and sheer stamina for donkey work than some divine spark. It’s not even an enjoyable experience. It can be painful, tedious and terribly discouraging.
His works are all very different and it’s hard to find the connecting thread. His maxim as a writer is: “Never repeat yourself”. He sees no point in writing, otherwise. Perhaps that’s why he has written comparatively few works. He has always been determined never to write anything that doesn’t leave a mark. This probably springs from his horror at the way death swallows us all up.
His first work, Gezzu, a philosophical fable for adults about an innocent and optimistic spider’s refusal to conform to society was published in 1982. This was followed in 1983 by Dik il-Qtajra (The Droplet), a series of poetic monologues spoken by a baby before and after it is born. When it came out, it was considered obscene, and banned.
Alfred Buttigieg is first and foremost a playwright. His first full-length play, Ir-Rewwixta tal-Qassisin (The Priests’ Revolt) premiered at the Manoel Theatre (National Theatre) in 1986. This historical play within a play operates on three planes of time, drawing parallels among three key moments in Maltese history. It is a treatise on political power and an incitement to distrust anyone who wields it. Maltese drama expert Dr. Marco Galea hailed the play as probably the most interesting play of the 1980s decade and the first important historical play to be written and performed in Malta since independence.
Ippermettili Nitlaq (Please Let Me Go) centres on medical ethics or lack of them. Its experimental structure ties in with the theme that once fate has dealt us a bad hand, it doesn’t matter what decisions we take; we cannot escape our end. It was featured in the European Theatre Convention 9th edition (2010) as one ‘of the 120 best contemporary European plays for the stage’
Dwar Menopawsi, Minorenni u Muturi High-speed (Of Midlife Crises, Minors and High-speed Motorbikes) is a dark comedy looks at the forces unleashed by a couple’s reaction to middle age. They struggle against their ageing bodies and numbing daily routines for one last sip of the summer wine. It too was listed in the online catalogue European Theatre Convention 10th edition (2011) as one ‘of the 119 best contemporary European plays for the stage.
Mela Hawn xi Manikomju? (What Is This, a Madhouse?) premiered in 2016. It is a play full of bawdy humour but there are several moments of poetry and pathos as it invites the audience to contemplate human beings’ experience of homesickness, grief, unfreedom, abandonment, betrayal, loneliness, the body’s frailties, memory and death.
In 2020, L-Interrogazzjoni (The Interrogation) was produced by Teatru Malta in the living room of a villa in Malta. The play examines the aftermath of a murder cover-up in which one of the protagonists was directly involved. Her lover needs to know the truth. The couple’s murky drives and desires find a steam-valve in a bizarre role-play as they pit themselves against each other, but also put themselves in each other’s shoes in a role-playing, role-switching game that borders on the erotic. The publication of this play won the author the 2022 National Book Award for drama.
L-Arrest ta’ Danny Weed (The Arrest of Danny Weed), staged for the first time in 2023, is a farce loosely based on the arrest of Daniel Holmes, a Welsh expatriate in Malta who was arrested and subsequently imprisoned for several years for growing cannabis plants.
In 2017 the author published Alfred Buttigieg The Collected Plays, a collection of the playwright’s four full-length plays in English – The Priests’ Revolt, Please Let me Go, On Minors Midlife Crises and Fast Motorbikes and What is This, a Madhouse? The book is also available on Amazon Kindle.
Alfred Buttigieg was born in Tarxien, a town in Malta, in 1956. He graduated as a teacher in 1981 and taught for several years. Before he retired he worked as a headmaster in a primary school. In addition, he has written a series of 21 workbooks aimed at developing primary schoolchildren’s proficiency in the Maltese language. He was a founder member of the 1980s theatre company Ateatru and also formed part of the Manoel Theatre Management Committee between 2003 and 2008.
If you need further information about his publications or about staging one of his plays, you can contact him at email@example.com