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  • Writer's pictureSara Gauci

A Conversation with Gianni Selvaggi (Part 1)

Photo by: Justin Mamo

With recent credits including Glitter Punch (Masquerade), An Inspector Calls (MADC), Sleeping Beauty - The Panto (FM Theatre Productions) and As You Like It (MADC), it is quite unlikely that you did not encounter Gianni Selvaggi on the local theatre stage in the past few years.

He became a member of the Malta Amateur Dramatic Club (MADC) in 2014 and in 2015 began training and performing with Teatru Manoel Youth Theatre company (TMYT) in productions like The Three Sunsets (2015) and Rubbish (2016).

Gianni is currently reading for an MA in Performance at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London, however, he had to return to Malta for the time being due to the COVID-19 situation.

We had a lovely conversation about his thoughts and his experience as a full-time student training at Mountview Academy, and as a Maltese actor living in London.

So, to start off, what was the audition process like? How would he describe his journey into auditioning for a college abroad?

Gianni started by saying that the first step is to look at the various different schools and what they have to offer.

“The core of the institutions’ actor training is pretty similar across the board, but when you come down to specifics, you start seeing certain opportunities that you get from one and certain specializations that you get from another, and you have to weigh your options out to see what type of training you want, or what you think would work for you”

You need to see what their curriculum and programme of practice is structured.

Of course, different schools operate in different ways. Other things you do have to look out for are the location, the facilities they offer and the dates available to audition throughout the year.

Gianni had auditioned for 3 different schools within a week of each other, before being offered a place at Mountview.

And what was his Mountview audition like?

“I think it was the warmest, most all-rounded audition that I had experienced out of the three because it was very structured in a professional manner, but also very welcoming.”

Divided into groups of 30 (in an audition that consisted of 60 people per slot), the auditionees took part in a movement session focusing on physical restrictions and flow, all the while observing one’s ability to express instructions, even if they were as silly as moving like ‘a pair of chopsticks dancing to a tune by Elton John’.

“The point of the exercise was to find the playfulness and to make sure that you’re not closing yourself off from any creative ideas. It’s there to make you move and just let the thought be embodied by your movement.”

Following this movement workshop, auditionees had to choose one of the two monologues they were required to prepare prior to the audition (one classical, one contemporary) which would then be performed in front of each other to be able to view each other’s work.

“It’s best to prepare an extra one of each of the contemporary and classical pieces, as this gives you more things in your toolkit to work within that moment, in case another auditionee would have chosen the same monologue or if the audition panel might actually ask you to see something different”

You would choose your strongest one because this and your participation in the movement workshop will determine if you stay on for the second part of the audition in the afternoon. If your number is called out, then you’ve made it to the next round in the afternoon.

“If you get the recall, the second monologue is more of one-to-one and they will also re-direct you. They’ll ask you to play different actions, to start in different parts. They’ll break it up for you and get you to interpret the piece in different ways.”

Then there is your interview with the audition panel. You talk about what you’re looking at getting out of the course, any previous stage experience and training that you might have had, and what you want to do after your studies, like a particular field or form of theatre that you would like to specialize in.

“For example, I mentioned my love for puppetry, and my love for physical theatre as well. So, they know where your aspirations and interests lie from the get-go”.

Within a few weeks, Gianni found out he was accepted and offered a place at Mountview Academy.

What opportunities did Mountview give him vs the other schools?

“I started weighing out my options. The resources in London and the access to the West End and National Theatre itself. I looked at the course structure again. There were different opportunities with each of the other schools I auditioned for. But one of the opportunities that Mountview offered in its curriculum over other institutions was a section of the course dedicated to a practice research-based creative project, where you are required to create and devise your own piece of original work. A 45 to 50-minute solo performance to kind of show what’s going on in your head.”

Taking into consideration the location, the course structure, the accessibility to resources, and also, living. You’ll find that there are forms of student lodging though that does not necessarily mean it’s offered by the schools and can be rather expensive. You would try to find an apartment, a shared flat, or shared housing with other students, or other people that you might know.

“Luckily in my case, I was sharing it with two other Maltese people.”

And speaking of the Maltese…

What is the Maltese community there like?

Gianni and his two Maltese friends chose to live in Brixton. Aside from it being convenient and a middle ground for all of them to get to their school, Brixton has a multicultural community.

“London is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. And in Brixton, you’ve got communities ranging from Caribbean and Eastern European to Mediterranean, so as a Maltese person you feel that you can fit in quite well. The food, the people and the area really make you feel welcome. I really enjoy living there.”

There’s also a nice healthy community of Maltese performing artists across London; from artists that were featured prominently on the Maltese scene, to Maltese performers that have been part of various successful West End shows such as Hollie Cassar (On Your Feet), Sarah Naudi (In The Heights), Raphael Pace (Mamma Mia!), Damien Buhagiar (Jersey Boys) and Ben Darmanin. A few other notable Maltese performers who have been living there for some time and have created their own theatre companies, including Chantelle Micallef Grimaud, Vikesh Godhwani, Zoe Farrugia, Bettina Paris, Tina Rizzo, Anton Saliba, Edward De Gaetano, Claudio Carta, Francesca Fenech, and Marta Vella.

“For your own sanity’s sake”, Gianni says,

“it’s great knowing that you have a wonderful group of friends and fellow Maltese creatives that you can reach to for a coffee catch-up. Your own little private support system. London can get very lonely at times and they’ve been through these things you’re passing through too. They know the struggles of loneliness, they know the feeling of unemployment, they know the difficulty of a training lifestyle. You can seek comfort in that and help each other out. It’s really a great thing to be a part of.”

They look out for one another.

The Maltese community is very important when you’re living there. Share with someone who wants to audition abroad!

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