The subtle art of awkwardness | Nicola Abela Garrett

The MADC Playhouse will stage Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming – in which a family’s dark secrets unravel before our eyes – on April 12 through to 14. We speak to actress Nicola Abela Garrett, who will be playing Ruth, the outsider who sets the blackly comic farce in motion.

Nicola Abela Garrett: “Pinter makes his scenes ‘awkward’ not only through the conversations he creates, but also through the scenario.”
Nicola Abela Garrett: “Pinter makes his scenes ‘awkward’ not only through the conversations he creates, but also through the scenario.”

Was it difficult to grapple with the work of a master like Harold Pinter?

I was lucky enough to study Pinter's The Birthday Party at University, so that did somewhat prepare me for his labyrinth of words. However, it was challenging but equally enjoyable decoding his dialogue, and extracting that glimmer of naturalism from his surreal conversations. I noticed that it may look strange on paper, but his verses brutally mimic human speech.

The play is a claustrophobic, deeply awkward thing: how did you deal with the tension in the play, and what did you find was the best way to pull it off?

We played with that tension. We used it as leverage to ride through the performance text (that includes both the play text and the mise-en-scène).

Pinter makes his scenes 'awkward' not only through the conversations he creates, but also through the scenario. On top of that, he illustrates this 'awkwardness' through the infamous 'Pinter Pauses'.

It's awkward for the characters, and it's awkward for the actors. But these are another feature which the actor has to enjoy decoding when working on a Pinter piece. You have to decipher which ones make sense to be prolonged, and which ones should be brief.

Your character, Ruth, is definitely the outsider of this scenario. What does she bring to this heady concoction and - perhaps more importantly - was she fun to play?

Ruth's a MILF. I do MILFS well. She is the outsider and this is highlighted by the fact that she does more silence than speech. However, Pinter effectively turns this round by her bursts of sudden dominance throughout the play. Because she does a lot of observing, my Pinter pauses are twice as pregnant. She's an almost silent role who has a sharp whip of a tongue that lashes out when you least expect it.

How would you describe the MADC Playhouse initiative, and how did the ethos behind it contribute to this production?

I'm a very proud member of the MADC, and I'm extremely grateful for all the opportunities they've given me over the years as a blossoming actor.

They welcome young people with open arms to get involved in theatre, and we've recently been using the Playhouse more frequently for productions other than the One Acts. With V18 coming up, I think it's a great initiative to have a theatre landmark outside of the capital, located in a typical Maltese town.

It's allowed a monumental play such as The Homecoming to be staged in an intimate and cosy space. Coming up the stone flight of stairs is like ascending into an attic, and finding a gem such as this play being unfolded.

The Homecoming will be staged at the MADC Clubrooms, Sta Venera. Tickets at €10 can be booked through MADC online or by calling 79 796232.

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