Brussels to stage emotional drama about Daphne Caruana Galizia murder

Brussels to stage emotional drama about Daphne Caruana Galizia murder
Actor Alan Paris. Credit: Daryl Cauchi

The murder of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia on October 16, 2017, shocked Europe. She was killed instantly when a bomb exploded under her leased Peugeot 108, with blast fragments found up to 80m away.

The killing ignited a storm of outrage in Malta about the pervasive corruption that Caruana Galizia was exposing, and fallout from the scandal is still emerging today. Now Brussels audiences can witness the sordid story of her killing as the KVS stages an exceptional theatre production dramatizing her last moments over two nights next week.

The play, ‘They Blew Her Up’, performed on May 4 and 5, is a semi-fictionalised account of the murder and the subsequent political shockwaves. It was written and directed by Times of Malta chief editor-in-chief Herman Grech, who had a front-row seat to the real-life drama when it happened.

“The play is controversial,” he tells The Brussels Times. “It does not pull punches. The narrative is very shocking. Not only was Daphne murdered, but there was a cover-up. It shows the corrupt links between the business and the political community.”

Caruana Galizia was a household name in Malta. Popularly known as ‘Daphne’, the 53-year-old’s gossipy blog skewered the rich and powerful. And she was influential: her work on the Panama Papers triggered an early election in 2017.

The cast. Credit: KVS Theatre

Grech’s script is vague about many of the names and details remain vague, not least because the murder trial has not yet started. “I knew I was walking on legal eggshells. And it was a system that killed her, not just one person,” he says.

He is also candid about Caruana Galizia, who he admits to clashing with when she was still alive. “Daphne was a polarising figure, she was loved and hated. So the play is not always complimentary about her,” he says.

But the play is also a celebration of journalism, not just Caruana Galizia’s but those who uncovered the corruption at the highest levels. “If it wasn’t for journalists, nothing would have happened. They forced the police’s hand,” he says.

It has just five roles: one of Caruana Galizia’s sons, a journalist, an informant, a murder suspect and a police investigator. Grech has directed some 15 plays, including other self-penned scripts on current issues. “It’s not easy, but this is something I feel so passionate about,” he says. “There is so much overlap between theatre and politics, and some transpose better onto the stage.”

The play first ran for three weekends in Malta last year before renewed pandemic restrictions forced it to close. This is its first tour, and a few scenes were rewritten to remove local references that would not be understood by Brussels audiences.

Post-performance Q&A

Caruana Galizia’s son, Matthew, will also attend the performances and take in a post-show Q&A session afterwards. There had been hopes for European Parliament President Roberta Metsola to attend, but the EU’s highest-profile Maltese politician will be in Strasbourg.

Actor Alan Paris, who plays the suspect (labelled ‘the criminal element’), says he worked with her Caruana Galizia when she was alive. “And Malta, being so small, I have actually met two of the people implicated in her murder,” he says. “I didn’t know it at the time. The person who put the bomb together was someone I met at a party.”

Paris says that he feels the weight of the issue in a more personal way than, say, when he performs Shakespeare. “It’s a horrible story. We’re a small island, so it tears you up inside. And that makes it a privilege to be part of this play.”

This is not the only time Caruana Galizia’s murder has inspired drama: the acclaimed BBC series Line of Duty included a storyline that includes an almost identical car-bomb killing.

Related News

The murder continues to overshadow politics in Malta. A political crisis erupted in 2019 after business tycoon Yorgen Fenech was arrested. He was closely linked with then-Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who was forced to resign in early 2020. A public inquiry last year found that the government created a “culture of impunity” in which enemies could be silenced.

The EU itself was caught in the scandal after claims that funding for the proposed Maltese Melita gas pipeline to Sicily, would involve a Fenech’s gas company. Fenech himself is still awaiting trial for allegedly masterminding the murder, along with alleged bombers George and Alfred Degiorgio.

But the EU has also taken up her cause. On Thursday, the European Commission unveiled a proposal aimed at tackling abusive litigation targeting journalists. And last year, the European Parliament announced the first winner of its €20,000 Daphne Caruana Galizia journalism prize: the Pegasus Project, an international initiative that uncovered government spying on journalists, politicians and others.

They Blew Her Up will be performed on May 4 and 5 at the KVS, Arduinkaai 7 Quai aux Pierres de Tailles, 1000 Brussels. For more information see here.

Leo Cendrowicz

The Brussels Times

Copyright © 2021 The Brussels Times. All Rights Reserved.