Blanket Ban, Southwark Playhouse, 2023
Photo: Ali Wright
  • Theatre, Drama
  • Recommended


Blanket Ban

4 out of 5 stars

Hard-hitting docu play about Malta’s oppressive total ban on abortions


Time Out says

In Malta abortion is illegal. There are no special cases or considerations. It is a blanket ban. Over a risotto in 2019, two Maltese friends living in London, Davina Hamilton and Marta Vella agreed ‘they had to do something’, to join the conversation; and try to make a difference to the anti-reproductive laws. They decided to make a play.

‘Blanket Ban’ is a protest and incisive call to action. Beginning with introductions to Malta as a country, it celebrates its uniqueness, individual quirks and culture. But soon the cheery songs about pastizz – the vulva-shaped flaky pastry you’ve probably never heard of, dissipate into angered reporting and recorded contributions from women in Malta with real-life experience of wanting an abortion. With a collage of testimonies from doctors and campaigners, coupled with news footage and speeches from Maltese politicians, ‘Blanket Ban’ is as much a work of journalism as it is drama. 
First performed at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, the duo reflect on how the news and approach to abortion in Malta has progressed since then. They also share the hate they faced from Maltese people for performing something so critical of their country’s stance on abortion. Because of this, in its political content it feels current, responsive and self-aware – even if it’s sometimes cumbersome as drama. 
As the duo bounce from one section to the next, the fluidity of their movement is rapid and sketchy. There’s video projections, dress-ups, re-enactments and conversational revelation. Elsewhere, there’s some flailing dance sections where one actor dressed in blue fabric becomes the sea, and another of stylised clownish japery. Together, it is haphazardly chaotic.
But, with a central topic so pressing and pitiful, it makes picking serious holes in ‘Blanket Ban’ difficult. Beside the traumatic stories of women travelling across Europe, desperate to terminate their unwanted pregnancies, there is a genuine passion for Malta - a country that has ‘progressive views on almost everything’. As Maltese women, it feels as though Hamilton and Vella are working through their complicated relationship with their country, live and in front of us. This is not a one-sided exploration, there’s nuance built into every layer - however messy it might be. 
On press night, the audience groans in horror at the statistics. Despite Malta only being a tiny country, last year it had 424 packs of abortion pills illegally sent in. ‘Blanket Ban’ proves that banning abortion does not stop it happening, it just drives it, dangerously ‘underground’. This is a theatre birthed out of exasperation, and you leave fired up to fight for women’s rights to their own bodies both locally and further afield.


£20, £16 concs. Runs 1hr 15min
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