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What does our top playwright think about society?

Six short plays directed by Gibraltar’s top directors shed some light on how society has lost its way in the eyes of Julian Felice.

The Gibraltar playwright showed off some of his latest work at the Bayside Drama Theatre this week. As fans of local theatre we asked Julian first of all what his plays were about…

“They all explore different themes and issues, all of them relevant to the modern age, such as the injustice of privilege, the desire to escape reality, and the cynicism of society,” said Felice, whose plays have been performed in UK and USA. “They were directed by experienced and successful local directors, and they are all supported by a large cast of actors, many of whom have won awards locally.

“The idea has been to present a fresh and dynamic type of event that presents challenging ideas to an audience and helps to bring the words to life.”

Then we watched them, based on the personal interpretation that makes art interesting, even though sadly the drama studio was less than half full on the night.

1. Zelda 3:16: 

The night’s entertainment kicked off with an imaginary return of Jesus to earth – played by Julian himself – washed up on a beach after being “out of practice” with walking on water. Sunbather Zelda immediately takes to judging him according to a number of social stereotypes, before he goes to church and the nun calls him “blasphemous”.

The tall poppy syndrome of society could have been in the crosshairs here, while the ritualistic desire to maintain things as they are being the goal in the church scene.

The final scene when Jesus is being interviewed by the inspector in his office represents the normal sort of reaction when someone is claims to be the saviour of the world – he must be mad. The play challenged the way people are placed into boxes to be able to classify them socially and individuals not given their true worth for the message they convey.

2. Happy Birthday

This play talked about social privilege in a world where race, gender and sexuality could no longer differentiate between the ins and the outs. Instead, the month of birth is used as a way of defining privilege, be it in the first or second halves of the year.

This play talked about social privilege in a world where race, gender and sexuality could no longer differentiate between the ins and the outs. Instead, the month of birth is used as a way of defining privilege, be it in the first or second halves of the year.

Julian Felice plays a member of the ‘pariah’ (social outcasts) who is talking to a woman with whom he finds a deep connection. But then his older brother walks in and lures her away as he was born in the right half of the year, giving rise to the fact that no-one chooses the social status into which they are born.

The play shows the power of privilege and how it destroys true feelings of those who want to enjoy them, even though they have not earned it by anything more than circumstance and coincidence.

3. Patient Zero

In the most interactive play of the ones being shown on the night, two actors dressed in doctor’s uniforms approach an audience to say a highly contagious virus has been set loose in the room. A young person is blamed for starting the pandemic even though it is clearly not his fault and finally shot in the head by doctors as a way of administering blame.

The agitated nature of the actors really made the fear of a killer disease come to life for the audience, which was the main goal of director Dulcie Edwards, once again gracing our stages. ‘The fear of epidemic, and the epidemic of fear’ was how it was described on the programme, showing how quickly fear could spread and why it was always necessary to be critical and rational rather than jumping on that bandwagon.

It ended with the doctors on stage declaring that everyone in the room would be sacrificed to save the world, with smoke hissing into the room under the seats, echoing the gas chambers in the Holocaust.

4. The Escape 

“You can always find a distraction if you’re looking for one, said golfer Tom Kite. Nowadays in the world of Virtual Reality it is always easier to forget about our problems rather than face them by using the power of the imagination. This play tackles this subject, as the central character seeks to intensify his virtual reality experience as he seeks to run away from his real life issues.

It was refreshing to see the playwright on stage once again, putting across the great gamete of emotions that make drama easiest to empathise with. We could all identify with wanting to find a distraction from our mundane lives in our imaginations and technology more than ever is helping us on the way.

5. Ten Minutes

Finding something to make life interesting in the short span we are given is part of the purpose of this title too. Julian and his co-star Tim Seed appear in just boxers on the stage having been born just the day before. They proceed to give themselves names but cannot find a subject to talk about or something to dwell on in this parody of life.

The irony of it all is that just as they get excited about something – the immensity of the universe – the play ends, much like the way life ends when it is really starting to get exciting. It also represented one of the most humorous of the plays as they looked so vulnerable standing almost naked on stage, something that is difficult to be in a small community.

6. I am Home

Speaking of a small community and humour this last play was a hilarious interpretation of a walk down Main Street. Finally everyone could have a good laugh as Gibraltarians want to do when they go to the theatre.

From a serious perspective it could be interpreted about how little things change in our busiest thoroughfare and how we often take that for granted. Even in an age where Main Street has changed so much, there are some things we all take for granted, be it the oddly named shops, the statues or the history behind them

All in all it was a wonderful night of local theatre from one of Gibraltar’s most acute social critics who is always looking to challenge the world around him with his theatre. Check out three of Julian Felice’s top plays here.

Missed it? Want more? Look out for a pantomime this week and the annual Drama Festival in March.

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