What you see is what you get ….. a Sydney-made top actor

The Voice of the Maltese has chosen, as the February Personality of the Month one of the best-known Maltese actors/entertainers amongst the Maltese community in Australia. She made her name acting in Maltese theatre (it-teatrin Malti) which plays an important part in enhancing the intricate way our language is spoken. Even after so many years, it-teatrin Malti is still very popular and by popular demand requested in all states of Australia, especially NSW.

MONICA LEDGER

… was born in Gżira, the daughter of Anthony and Doris Pisani and arrived in Sydney in 1963 on the m/v Sydney as a sixteen-year-old. Like most teenagers of her time she had a very strict family upbringing both in Malta and in Australia.

On arrival in Sydney, she soon became involved in the Maltese community around the Leichhardt area. She recalls that her early settlement involvement within the community was necessary to ease her separation from her roots.

The sixties were a time when many Maltese in the inner city area needed many social support structures to assist them in adjusting to the new environment.

with her mother Doris Pisani

Many religious activities took place around Leichhardt at the initiative of Capuchin Friars, Fathers Publius Cassar and Leonard Busuttil. Social activities were organized by the late Manwel Agius. She belonged to a dancing group that performed the Malta National dance — It -Maltija — in various localities including Canberra.

“I like dancing very much but my parents only allowed me to go to the cinema and not on my own but with a brother as a chaperone. I was not the quiet type so I used to sneak out to the Phoenician Hotel, leaving my brother to finish the film on his own” Monica recalls.

In Australia, little had changed for Monica. From Gżira, Malta to Surry Hills or Annandale where her parents had found accommodation, her mother continued to enforce a disciplinary code.

“Then when I wanted to go out my mother started sending with me, not one chaperone but my twin siblings. You can work out for yourself how restricted I have felt. I had imagined that I came to a free country but to my Mum and her parental discipline with our big move, Malta and Sydney made no difference to her”, said Monica.

Monica Ledger started to realise how her new life was unfolding for her gradually in this big city of Sydney. Luckily she did not face major difficulties, her English was good, and at work, she did not experience discrimination and felt accepted by her workmates.

with Joe Bajada during the play It-Tieġ ta’ Karmena Abdilla

But strict parental control started to increasingly test her vitality. She felt that her only outlet was for her to marry. In 1966 at age nineteen she did marry and now has two daughters Allison and Kim and four grandchildren, Jessica, Allana, Jake and Lara.

She left the inner city and moved to Fairfield. But for the last 50 years, her home was in Greystanes. In 1998 she met Doris Borg, the better half of the late popular Maltese comedian Joe Borg, being as well the daughter of the late Manwel Agius better known as “Arloġġi”.

Monica gradually rekindled her interest in the stage and today undoubtedly is one of the top actors that the Maltese theatrical company Iċ-Ċittadini can be proud of. Monica can play both sombre and comical roles but readily conceded that it is the comedy she really enjoys.

with late comedian Joe Borg

All who have seen her act on stage tend to agree that she has an innate talent, a quiet repartee and dexterous hand movements. ”What you see is what you get” she told The Voice with a smile and suggestive look.

In NSW, Monica played in a number of historical plays as in Ġensna, Manwel Manwel, 1919 and Din it-Triq il-Verità u l-Ħajja. She maintains that her best role was in the well-known Maltese comedy It-Tieġ ta’ Karmena Abdilla (see photo).

She has a strong sense of satisfaction in having been given a role with Maltese well-known comedians visiting Sydney like Joe “id-Dulli” and Veronica Farrugia, Toni “il-Majsi” Vella, Ġemma Portelli and Johnny Catania.

“My greatest delight on stage is when I see the audience laugh and smile. The sacrifices I had to make in order to find the right balance between the love for my family and the theatre, make it all worthwhile ” concludes Monica.

Currently, she is the President and the social organiser for the Maltese theatrical organisation Iċ-Ċittadini and for a number of years has been on the committee of the Maltese Culture Association of NSW and very active in the organisation of concerts, dinner dances and the like.

with her family today
Monica Ledger

After working for 33 years for TipTop Bread as a merchandising representative she retired but still remained active within the community training the younger generation to gain a better understanding of it-teatrin Malti.

Monica’s contribution to the Maltese community in NSW was acknowledged when on Malta National Day 8th September during an activity organized by the Maltese Cultural Association of NSW, she was acknowledged for her solid contribution by the prestigious annual Maltese Cultural Award 2009.

*all photos supplied

By TVOTM Community Desk

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