Malta’s national theatre has often been described as a Mediterranean jewel of the arts, and as soon as you step inside you will immediately realise why. The Manoel Theatre is not only a functioning theatre hosting some of the island’s most sought-after events – it also offers a rather unique example of Baroque architecture that is rarely found even in larger theatres across Europe.
A big part of the attraction lies in the small, oval-shaped auditorium, enclosed by three tiers of boxes that are constructed out of exquisitely decorated wood. If you book tickets for a play, or a concert, make it a point to look up to the ceiling, which boasts a beautiful trompe l’oeil that gives the impression of a rounded cupola.
The Manoel Theatre today
The theatre was recently restored, with full amenities installed while maintaining the original architectural features. Unlike Pjazza Teatru Rjal, this has allowed for a year-long programme of events, with audiences hosted in comfort thanks to the new AC system. If nothing strikes your fancy during your visit, it’s worth considering a guided tour. The guide tours are all very passionate and will regale you with anecdotes from different productions, and even gossip about the artists.
The Manoel Theatre is known for having the best costume department on the island, with some of the other local theatre companies preferring to rent directly from the Manoel’s (as it is fondly known) repertoire than going to the trouble of commissioning new pieces.
Although the annual programme offers an eclectic mix of artistic events that range from contemporary plays to high opera and even electronic music, the most iconic event remains the annual Christmas Panto. So sought after were tickets that, before the booking system went online some years ago, punters would queue for the best tickets from the night before bookings opened. The sight of theatre-goers armed with coffee flasks against the biting cold will remain an iconic memory tied to the Manoel Theatre.