Abortion laws in Malta literally took centre stage in London with Blanket Ban, a play penned by homegrown artists Davinia Hamilton and Marta Vella.
The play, which is based on the true accounts of women negatively impacted by the abortion ban on Malta, kicked off its run at the Southwark Playhouse in London with a four star review from The Guardian, which described it as “a startling account of abortion laws in Malta”. The play specifically focuses on the impact of COVID19, when Maltese women who needed to travel abroad to terminate their pregnancy were unable to due to pandemic restrictions. Figures for 2020 in fact saw a record increase of abortion pills ordered remotely from Malta totalling around 356, pro-choice organisation Doctors for Choice reported.
The Guardian is known for its strict approach to star rating, with only the top theatre pieces making the four star cut, while very rarely giving a perfect score of five. “With bright humour and a huge amount of respect for their interviewees, Blanket Ban is a warning that abortion rights can never be taken for granted, and a hope that open discussion of topics that have repeatedly been silenced can serve as a bold form of protest and a key instigator of change,” Kate Wyver, The Guardian theatre critic, wrote. You can read the full review here.
Asked about the chances of seeing Blanket Ban produced in Malta, Vella said that they would like to do this: “I think it’s very necessary at this stage. People might disagree with the topic – that’s their prerogative – but we can stand tall knowing that it’s a powerful piece of art that stands on its own.”
Hamilton added that it feels wonderful to have their hard work acknowledged and celebrated. “We’ve really poured our hearts into this piece, and it’s genuinely such a rush to hear that other people are moved by it. It’s also a real privilege for us to be able to centre Maltese women’s stories in British theatre, where we are very rarely — if ever — represented, despite having been a colony until not too long ago.”
The Guardian review comes after a whole slew of other raving recommendations. The play was performed for the first time at the Edinburgh Fringe festival last year to equally positive reviews. The Malta abortion ban was once again pushed into the limelight last year when Andrea Prudente, a woman who was holidaying in Malta was refused termination of an unviable pregnancy that was potentially life-endangering. Although the topic remains highly divisive, a survey commissioned by the Times of Malta earlier this year revealed that over 50% support abortion when the mother’s life is at risk.