Last Updated on Thursday, 22 April, 2021 at 1:36 pm by Andre Camilleri
Jeremy Grech is a 24-year-old performing artist. Currently, due to the pandemic, he is using his free time to become a tourist guide, combining both History and Theatre together.
In March of 2020, the National Theatre in Malta hosted its last show before the island went silent. Who would have told us that that was the last time for a couple of months, a year… that we will see a packed theatre full of smiles and awe.
A national lockdown was announced only days later, shows were being cancelled, others postponed. I thought that this could be a well needed short break after a buzzing 2019 and early 2020; who would have known right? 2020 was supposed to be a year of progress, not only for me, but for many others as well. I am not angry of the way things went about. No one is to blame for the pandemic, a lockdown was necessary in order to not only save lives but also perhaps get rid of this virus.
Theatres started coming up with other plans to adapt their plays, hybrid events came into place and we went into a brainstorming phase. So far, things seemed to have a date, we sort of knew that when this is over we can adapt, and we did. Some shows were put up with half the audience members, shows were put up outside where instead of clapping we heard horns. It wasn’t the same, but it was still something. Yet, due to the recklessness of certain people, the cases started to rise again and more shows had to be postponed and even cancelled due to the fear of becoming a victim of Covid. I did turn down a show due to this, as an asthmatic I thought it would be safe to look after myself and those around me. As 2020 was coming to an end we were hopeful! The vaccines are here and this will bring about progress, safety! Shows will be allowed to take place again, but we were wrong. Culturally and artistically 2021 proved to be an even worse year than that of before. Of course it was! Things remained the same, people remained reckless, gathering in masses, going to illegal parties because “it’s been too long”…this brought about another lockdown.
I do not blame the theatres or theatre companies for the lack of shows, it’s a risk that they’re not willing to take. Why go through the tedious, yet fascinating stage of rehearsing, to have a show cancelled a week before the premiere. It’s not worth it for them and it’s not worth it for us performers either. Most artists are not paid for the rehearsal process, our pay day is show day, no shows mean no money! I am not even blaming those in power for what has happened… it’s not their fault. This is a matter of mentality. The arts in Malta have never been deemed as important, as a job, as a profession. It’s just a hobby. Some people still giggle when I tell them I work as an artist. It’s not funny, it’s actually quite frightening. We tend to look past the performing arts, yet we are surrounded by it. Every day after a long day of work we drive home, listening to music to cool down and relax. In the evening, as we enjoy a warm meal, we put on the TV to watch a good show. Before we sleep, we read a book. At school, we sign our children up for ballet and dance. But that’s the problem, its extra curricular activity. It’s not maths, it’s not history…it’s theatre.
There are hundreds of local performers on the island trying to work professionally; you’ve seen them and voted for them on talent shows. There are hundreds of local performers working abroad, you’ve shared that article headlined, “Maltese-born artist making waves abroad”.
So, why don’t you care about us? Why are we cast aside when we are all around? Why aren’t you considering us for jobs to represent our own nation? Why have no measures come out in regards to the arts? People like going to the theatre as much as they like going to a restaurant. When are we going to open? This is not a question of red or blue, this is a question of relativity. Of our own livelihood. This silence has gone on for far too long. And no… this is not a call for help… THIS IS A CALL FOR ARTS.
Jeremy Grech delved into the world of theatre at a very late age, at 17, but he has not looked back! He has trained at the Malta Drama Centre and TMYT. His aim, as a performer, is to deliver the best performance one can give on stage, no show or role is lesser than the other. But, his aim as an artist is to be involved in as many productions as possible to be able to progress, learn and grow even more. From puppet shows in Russia, to physical theatre in Denmark, to being a pirate in the UK and multiplier at Fort St Elmo, Jeremy has enjoyed every aspect of performing. Whatever the future holds for him, wherever it may take him, he hopes that it will be on a stage!