I went to the Comedy Knights in Sliema today. I had been a previous year and enjoyed it. I warn you I’m not a theatre critic. There was a judge in the US who famously assured his court that he would find it difficult to define pornography; but that he’d know it when he’d see it. I do not have the skills to give you a review but I can tell you I laughed and I cried.
From the depth of the darkness of despair that is the Malta the Comedy Knights satirised came a cathartic humour, an acid satire, but, to me most significantly, anger and invective.
There was the smart ‘Everybody is a little bit Labour’. There was the excruciatingly embarrassing ‘How do you solve a problem like Delia?’: embarrassing for the subject, not the performers. There were the staple Sliema archetypes: the isolationism, the haughtiness, the broadly well-meaning scepticism, the poorly informed fortress mindset.
And if you have not been, for a few side-splitting minutes the stage was bedecked with the incarnation of the antithetical notion of the Slimiża ideal: the woman with the pedigree of a dishwashing tablet, the furrilly enblinged grace of a vinyl and chrome Pontiac ‘50, unforgivably obtuse, and socially delusional. In other words Michelle Muscat.
But there was a woman in the room whose presence was felt from beginning to end. The authors dealt with the context of Daphne’s death, in my view, in the most fitting way. By putting it front and centre. There was no unspoken brushing aside of the sad subject that would cloud the joyful proceedings.
What a lesson these artists teach the President and the prime minister of Malta. Consider how these two top figures of our state dealt with the subject when they reflected on 2017 at their drinking dos with diplomats working here in Malta. The President ended up criticising Daphne for dying and spoiling the impeccable economic record of the government. The Prime Minister side-stepped the single most significant and painful event of 2017 naively assuming that as they toasted to his wife’s health the ambassadors of the rest of the world did not quietly hiss at this Lilliputtian prime minister who speaks of the rest of the world’s envy of him rather less charmingly than Kim Jong Un.
Ultimately the Comedy Knights poured their heart out. And what they found emerging from their artistic sincerity, even as they wanted and managed to make everyone laugh, was one emotion above all others: anger.
Stop reading here if you still have not been to the show and have tickets for either of the last two nights. And stop reading here if you do not appreciate four letter expletives.
If you’re still reading:
Those who have been to earlier performances warned me I could cry with the opening number: a tribute song in Daphne’s honour; a touching prologue not intended to get the matter out of the way but rather to bring it at the very heart of the rest of the evening. I did not cry, perhaps because I was forewarned.
But I was not prepared for the closing act: a re-writing of the Italian ‘90s anthem of misguided teenage angst. Vaffanculo to the dishonest, the hypocritical, the robbers, the inept, the cynical, and the “bastards who killed Daphne”.
That bit really worked because it tapped into the anger of the entire audience. It was a cathartic release to shout ‘fuck you’ to the smirking Joseph Muscat and Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri and Adrian Hillman and Ali Sadr and Chris Cardona and Hani Salah and John Dalli and Ram Tumuluri and Michelle Muscat and Brian Tonna and Chen Cheng and Silvio Debono and the rest of the lot, including the faceless ones we never knew of, who keep reminding us we can do nothing to them: that the more their misdeeds are criticised by the world, the stronger is their grip on our home.
It felt goot to shout ‘fuck you’ the day after the European Parliament sent us a report sheet that would shame Myanmar. ‘Fuck you’ to a prime minister who publicly tore the report in a Pontius Pilate gesture of fake aloofness. ‘Fuck you’ to a leader of the opposition who reacts to the lowest point ever reached by a Maltese government since Gonsalvo Monroy by “inviting the prime minister to take action”.
What’s this obsession with being nice all of a sudden? If Adrian Delia wants to invite Joseph Muscat to anything he should invite him to tea. If this is not the time for harsh words, for protests, for irrepressible resistence, when is? What does Joseph Muscat need to do for Adrian Delia to stop being so painfully polite?
Is it not bloody ironic that they used to criticise Simon Busuttil for being weak and, as some Slimiż would put it, “too good”? Where is the firebrand Adrian Delia who aped Jean Paul Marat in his leadership campaign pacing the stage and roaring, raising his crowd to a frenzy of hysteria? Does he reserve that angry side of him to biċċa bloggers? And then prefer to be all sugar and nice with our crook of a prime minister? Fuck you already.
It felt good to shout ‘fuck you’ to the people who brought shame to our country. ‘Fuck you’ to the people who give us nostalgia for the days when our 3 minutes on the Eurovision stage were all the world knew of Malta and we’d be grateful for scoring a tad more than nul points.
‘Fuck you’ to the nul points scored on our behalf when Tim Sebastian sodomised our deputy prime minister; when John Sweeney went Dickensian on our prime minister; when Roberto Saviano faced the Italian public for several agonising minutes and indicted us for the crimes of our masters.
And that is, really, also what Daphne is missed for. Sure there are the investigations, and the revelations, and the stories. But there is the invective, the anger, the expletives. The elegant, polite and explicit prithee please, with sugar on top, fuck off Mr Prime Minister and never come back.
The comedians on today’s stage had to broaden their job description. In the midst of laughter there had to be anger. There had to be that sweet, rolling vaffanculo to the seemingly omnipotent. In the absence of Daphne, they stepped up because while Adrian Delia appears to want to oppose this government by tickling it to submission, someone has to show these crooks everywhere, just where to go fuck themselves.