Of Paper, Stage and Screen
While André’s name is primarily associated with the many screen and stage roles he has given us, his love affair with characters and story telling actually started with him reading Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Aykroyd.
Standing at the threshold of a yet-undiscovered teenage life with all the uncertainties and possibilities that come with it, André closed the book knowing he wanted to write.
His fascination with inventing characters didn’t start and end with Christie’s book. Andre’ had been exposed to the art of storytelling since his early childhood. His grandfather, a natural storyteller himself, would come up with the most fascinating stories which always served to amuse the little boy. Childhood literary heroes such as Trevor Zahra, Carmel G.Cauchi and Charles Casha also served to strengthen André’s growing passion for storytelling.
It was a culmination of all this that eventually led him to grab a pen (his first novel was indeed initially written in ink – and then re-typed. This was the 90’s after all!) and churn out his first novel. It must still be quietly sitting somewhere in his kitchen cupboard, still waiting for its big moment.
In 2013, André had his original novel Tattoo published by Horizons. It was written with a young audience in mind. Being 21 himself at the time of writing, Andre’ felt confident finding and getting through to his audience as he believes the narrow age-gap between writer and reader is a significant factor in making the novel genuine and authentic.
Acting came in at a later stage in André’s life. It was during his first year at University and along with a friend of his, he decided to take up a beginner’s course offered by Freespirit Acting. Seven years down the line he has performed in over 20 theatre productions, 8 local television productions and 5 short films.
Having built a solid foundation at Freespirit Acting he moved on to be part of Teatru Manoel Youth Theatre (TMYT) in 2014. André believes that experiencing the makings of each production entails a learning curve in itself.
In his most recent work, Ħekuba (2016), he had the honour of working with veteran Maltese actress Karmen Azzopardi who he considers a teacher as well as an inspiration.
Andre’ does try his best to challenge himself by engaging in productions which are out of his confort zone. Such was the case when he was asked to join Grokk Teatru’s first show for the Malta International Theatre Festival. The piece, Mikħal, was a devised piece and totally non-verbal. The process until the team got to a solid story arch that everyone was content with was pretty daunting. Having said that, the sacrifice and collaborative effort put into the production were more than reaped by the production and cast members when the production ended up playing no less than seven awards.
As a way to improve himself as a performer, André believes it essential for him to attend and watch other performances. Whenever he watches a great performance he feels urged to do something as inspirational himself. It is the beauty in others’ performances that triggers him to push himself even further.
One such occurrence was when André was asked to perform in Bejn Tliet Ħitan for the 2nd edition of the Social Theatre Contest and interpret a Pierrot based character who was – essentially – the manifestation of the subconscious of another character.
In the absurdity of the piece André found inspiration for this role in Lucky’s speech in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. The chaos and nonsense that made up that speech was what exactly what he needed to build the role upon.
Involving himself in theatre and loving to write naturally led André to eventually write for the stage. To date he has written 4 scripts and is currently working on his fifth. Like many natural artists, André does put a lot of himself in his art.
He considers writing very similar to giving birth: no one can know or love his characters as intimately as the author – but in the end, they weren’t created to stay locked up forever. André goes a bit further with the metaphor, stating that he considers his projects individual sons and daughters of his. In this regard, he always tries to ensure they develop as healthily as possible. He does this by constantly seeking feedback from his peers and collaborators.
Speaking of sons and daughters, André somewhat guiltily admits that he does have one child which he prefers over all the others. In 2012, the first edition of the Social Theatre Contest was launched and he wrote a short script called It-Tfajjel ta’ Fuq il-Bandla. It tells the story of an autistic savant child and how he survives by using his abilities in his defence.
André wrote the script and starred in the main role. The play went on to win first prize in the contest. In 2016, André reworked the script and once again produced It-Tfajjel at Spazju Kreattiv as part of a double bill. Once again, feedback was very encouraging.
This remains the one role which he would not mind re-interpreting over and over again. Bringing it to life required long hours of research and rehearsal, but in the end, André feels very attatched to it as it also taught him a lot. It led him to understand the world from a different perspective.
And this why he writes and performs. Life is short and each decision we make opens doors and closes others. New paths are suddenly discovered where we once thought were dead-ends.
In André’s words, ‘Through writing and performing I allow myself to live, for a short while, the path of any closed doors I have in the reality that I am living.’