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Edinburgh Fringe 2022

Blanket Ban

Chalk Line Theatre and Untapped Award Winner 2022

Genre: Contemporary, Drama, New Writing, Political, Theatre

Venue: Underbelly


Low Down

Malta: Catholic kitsch, golden sun, deep blue sea, Eurovision – and a blanket ban on abortion. Propelled by three years’ of interviews with anonymous contributors and their own lived experience, actors and activists Marta and Davinia interrogate Malta’s restrictions on the freedom of women.

A show that explores what it means for your home to boast the world’s most progressive LGBTQIA rights, leading transgender laws – and a population that is almost unanimously anti-choice.


Davinia Hamilton and Marta Vella burst on to the stage in a riot of colour and music to celebrate their home country of Malta – the scenery, the sun, the parties, the food… until they discover that we, the audience don’t know about their national pastry, Pastizzi. ‘Think Cornish Pasty but tastier’ they say before describing them as vulva shaped and taking us into a powerful piece about Malta’s total ban on abortion. Something which feels initially to be about somewhere else but by the end of the show we are all aware that being pro-choice may not be something we can assume our own country will remain.

Malta, officially known as the Republic of Malta, is an independent state in the Mediterranean Sea. It is predominantly Catholic and is the only EU member state with a total ban on abortion. There are no exceptions, even for rape or incest. Abortion is an imprisonable offence, with a woman facing up to three years in jail and a doctor up to four – as well as losing their medical license.

The work is based on interviews carried out over three years and their own lived experience. Presented by Chalk Line Theatre, Blanket Ban is described as a docu-play as Hamilton and Vella (researchers, writers and performers) move between directly addressing the audience, playing out a storyline of a young woman facing the prospect of flying to the UK for an abortion, delivering anonymous verbatim extracts from interview they carried out over three years and projected video of interviews with sociology, law and health professionals in Malta.

The set is a simple one with three filmy muslin drops that are used to great effect to project interviews, lighting effects or backdrops on to as well as being used to add to the impact by being tied back, pulled up, down, sideways.

Hamilton and Vella’s performances are brimming over with energy, warmth and passion. The pace never drops as they switch between characters and styles of performance holding the audience throughout. The stories they share are often harrowing and highlight that, as ever, it is poor women who suffer most from the ban as women with money can come to the UK for the procedure.

I found some of the music with excerpts of interviews to be a little too loud which muffled the detail and we lost some of what the interviewees were saying which was a shame as their stories are at the centre of the show – but it was only on a few occasions.

They conclude by highlighting that far from being immune to the pro-life pressures here in the UK, we too could face the same experiences women in Malta and now many parts of the USA are dealing with.


For more information:

The Abortion Support Network