STAG continues its mission to encourage and promote the works of local playwrights with a full season of Manuel Casha’s new play The Last Days. This follows last season’s premiere of Katerina.
The Last Days is a work about Maltese immigrants in Australia and explores the often complex relationship between a man and his roots. In the winter of his life, after the loss of his wife Rita, Gianni finds himself yearning for his country of origin that he and his wife left behind after World War II. During 50 years of living in Australia, Gianni established a successful business, and raised a family. But now alone and his children married, with children of their own, he finds himself facing the desire to spend his remaining days in the country of his origin. Opposed by family and friends, Gianni is determined to follow his dream. Is this a result of the loss of his wife, or is it a common desire that many migrants face in the evening of their lives? This play opens the door for us to witness 'The Last Days' of Gianni in Australia but, in so doing, seeks to ask the questions faced by many migrants universally.
Manuel Casha is a Maltese-Australian playwright based in Melbourne. To date, he has written and produced several musical comedies for the Maltese Performing Arts Association as well as plays and sketches for children for both stage and radio. He is also a published poet, exploring themes relating to the Maltese experience. Casha has been theatrically involved with director Mel DeBono, also Maltese-Australian, since 1999 when DeBono directed his libretto Malet - , a musical journey into the evolution of the Maltese nation from the Neolithic Age to the great siege of 1565. Since then they have continued to collaborate on several productions. The Last Days is Casha’s first script to be performed at STAG, a culmination of his ongoing relationship with Mel DeBono.
Director Mel DeBono continues his long association with STAG, having directed such shows as The Weekend, Kindly Leave the Stage, After Dinner and the recent Katerina. The Last Days is Mel’s 59th outing as a director. In fact de Bono can’t remember when he wasn’t involved in some aspect of theatre.
Even as a seven year old growing up in his birth country Malta, DeBono remembers "organising other kids in what they thought was drama, not quite realizing that real drama was being played out right outside the bomb shelter protecting them from the enemies of World War II bombing raids."
Immigrating to Australia in 1949 and arriving as a 12 year old, DeBono was educated under the guidance of the Sisters of Mercy in Mansfield, Victoria before moving to Melbourne to be near the theatre. He recalls a highlight in theatre being when he produced The Ned Kelly Trial in the actual court house in Beechworth, before Kelly was transported to Melbourne. "The court house held only 30 people so the audience were the jury. The play coincided with the Beechworth Horse Shoe Easter Festival and was performed three times a day for five days for the enjoyment of many visitors to Beechworth." Debono has been honoured in Who’s Who of Maltese background persons in Australia and New Zealand.
His decision to direct The Last Days was not a difficult one: "As this is a new play, by a close friend, I am proud to bring it to the stage for the first time.”
The Last Days will be presented by STAG at the Strathmore Community Hall beginning mid November, 2010.