The theatrical group Stage Commandos was born during World War II within the dockyards in Malta’s Cottonera locality. This theatrical group was formed purely to entertain the dock workers, keeping their morale high and positive. The workers themselves built a stage out of wooden boxes and soon the performances attracted audiences from the areas around the docks.
But indeed the men on the stamps above were Commandos of a sort. From left to right we see Johnnie Catania (1925-1991), Laurie Bellizzi (1922-1993) and Charles Clews (1919-2009). They were known as The Stage Commandos.
During the War, the Grand Harbour and its Cottonera hinterland were a specific target, suffering continuous aerial bombing. The Stage Commandos introduced an innovative style of comedy and laughter which helped the workers cope with the intense bombardments and related psychological pressure. This was the birth of the Stage Commandos – a name inspired by the war experience.
Once hostilities were over, the group moved beyond the walls of the dockyards as the Stage Commandos had become very popular, filling to capacity Malta’s theatres almost every weekend.
The names, Charles Clews, Johnny Catania and Laurie Bellizzi nostalgically remain in the minds of many and this set of postage stamps seeks to pay tribute to these three much-loved personalities who are gone but will be remembered for many years to come. The stamps (and those shown below) were hand-drawn by cardio-thoracic surgeon, Alex Manché.
Together with others, the three personalities on the above stamps – Johnny Navarro (1912-97), Armando Urso (1918-76), and Nosi Ghirlando (1908-64) – entertained the Maltese nation for decades with their performance musicals, sketches, farces and one-act plays.
They were major contributors to Radju Muskettieri (Radio Musketeers) a multi-programme comedy radio production starting in 1948 and which ran into the early 1970s.