With their first pro­duc­tion – the spine-chill­ing ‘Ernest and the Pale Moon’ – hit­ting the stage in just a few weeks’ time, the Shrink­ing Vi­o­lets are set to leave their mark from the very be­gin­ning. Here, sits down with Vi­o­let and ac­tress to dis­cuss all t

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - LIFESTYLE & CULTURE -

Chiara Hyzler is a woman of many hats, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to the­atre. In fact, over her 11-year ca­reer, she’s di­rected nu­mer­ous plays, in­clud­ing Fe­male of the Species for Uni­faun and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie for the MADC, to men­tion but a few, and acted in many oth­ers, par­tic­u­larly pan­tomimes.

“I was forced – kick­ing and scream­ing – to my first au­di­tion in or­der to sup­port my friend He­lena,” she tells me. “I re­mem­ber singing the ti­tle song of Friends for that panto au­di­tion and, by some stroke of luck, I got in. From then on, I kept in­volv­ing my­self in a lot of pan­tos and one-acts.

“My act­ing then evolved into di­rect­ing, par­tic­u­larly af­ter win­ning the Best Di­rec­tor Award in the MADC One-Act Play Fes­ti­val. That led me to be­ing of­fered some good di­rect­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and I’m still di­rect­ing to­day. More­over, I have now put on a new hat of pro­ducer, which is ex­cit­ing be­cause it’s a to­tally dif­fer­ent sphere.”

Now, Chiara, who is also a drama teacher at San An­ton, has founded her own the­atre col­lec­tive along with Denise Mull­hol­land, Cathy Lawlor, Maria Buckle and Jo Caru­ana, called The Shrink­ing Vi­o­lets. Their de­but – with Chiara and Jo act­ing and Denise di­rect­ing – will kick off on Fri­day, 27 Oc­to­ber at the newly-re­fur­bished Palazzo de La Salle in Valletta. What led you to Shrink­ing Vi­o­lets?

I’ve part­nered with some of my best friends and peo­ple who I re­spect greatly, to cre­ate a the­atre col­lec­tive that has no rigid for­mat in terms of roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. We all roll up our sleeves and do what needs to be done. We’re also a col­lec­tive that prides it­self in col­lab­o­rat­ing with other tal­ented in­di­vid­u­als, start The such as Luke Say­don, who com­posed the mu­sic for our up­com­ing show (I have no idea how he does it, I can’t even press a C on a pi­ano); Moritz Za­van on lights; Emma Mi­callef on pho­tog­ra­phy and Gianni Sel­vaggi on de­sign. We like go­ing for artists who are a bit new, but who have their flair; a lit­tle some­thing dif­fer­ent that they can bring to the table. You’re now just a few days away from your de­but as a col­lec­tive with an adap­ta­tion of the eerie Ernest and the Pale Moon. What can you tell us about this play?

It’s funny how it all hap­pened, re­ally. I had the plea­sure of at­tend­ing a work­shop with the writ­ers and pro­duc­ers of the show way be­fore the Vi­o­lets was cre­ated, while Jo and Denise had watched it at the Ed­in­burgh Fringe, where it was a huge suc­cess. Then, when the col­lec­tive was set up, we de­cided to go for it be­cause of its unique qual­i­ties as a play, some­thing which, hand on heart, is new and fresh to Mal­tese the­atre.

Ernest, you see, is an en­sem­ble piece which you don’t see a lot of on an adult level – it’s usu­ally more of a youth the­atre thing or seen at schools. In fact, as a play, it feels dif­fer­ent: the way it’s writ­ten, and the way the ac­tors tell the story, hasn’t been done in Malta be­fore; it’s a very new way of telling the story. Within that, the ac­tors are very much part of, and very in­stru­men­tal in, the cre­ation of sound on stage, and the play has some­what of an eerie el­e­ment to it – Hitch­cock/Poe style, if you will – which again, you don’t see much. What can you tell us about your role in Ernest?

We each play mul­ti­ple char­ac­ters so, as such, I’ll be play­ing one of the en­sem­ble and the char­ac­ter of the nurse.

The nurse is very in­ter­est­ing as a char­ac­ter and so is her story, which re­volves around her job – a job she has had for years, dur­ing which time she’s had to put up with the peo­ple around her while deal­ing with the guilt and the sad­ness that comes with her job. She’s a very busy woman who wants to get on with the show – so she sounds ex­actly like me, come to think of it!

With re­gards to the text for the en­sem­ble, although it’s hard to re­late to what the char­ac­ters are go­ing through in the show (it tack­les themes of ob­ses­sion, rage and jeal­ousy, all of which are just not my na­ture) as an ac­tress, I have to find the hook to give a con­vinc­ing per­for­mance. What can you tell us about work­ing with the other Vi­o­lets and ac­tors?

Work­ing with Denise – both as a Vi­o­let and a di­rec­tor – has been ex­tremely ed­u­ca­tional. She’s so ex­pe­ri­enced and very good at what she does. I’ve watched al­most all her work – I’m a big Denise fan! – and I know her re­sults are al­ways top notch. And I would work with her again in a heart­beat, par­tic­u­larly as she opens our eyes to things that we wouldn’t have seen oth­er­wise. She makes you tougher and bet­ter.

As for the rest of us, well Jo and I know each other in­side out and she an­noys me ter­ri­bly… Make sure you write that! There is a lot of chem­istry there. As for the oth­ers, I’d never worked with Thomas [Camil­leri] and Chris [Galea] be­fore prop­erly, Photo by Emma Mi­callef but I love work­ing with them on the en­sem­ble pieces and be­ing part of a team. There are so many mo­ments when we’re all equal as char­ac­ters, that it’s just a to­tal team ef­fort; we are ma­chines, re­volv­ing and on-the-go all the time. You can’t do some­thing like that if the peo­ple around you don’t sup­port you.

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