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Davinia Hamilton and Marta Vella- interview

Studying the freedom and liberation of women in Malta through personal experience, and interviews from other contributors, Blanket Ban, by activists Davinia Hamilton and Marta Vella is soon playing at the Southwark Playhouse. As Malta is the only EU country to entirely prohibit abortion, and with much debate surrounding these laws, there is no better time to bring to light the situation faced by those living there.

Speaking to the pair, you can here how they have emotionally created the piece, and why it is so impactful.


Please could you tell us a little about the play and the journey to writing and performing it together?

Davinia: Blanket Ban is a show that Marta and I researched, devised and wrote, about the complete abortion ban in Malta, where we are from. We wanted to find a way to make use of our skill sets, in writing, making and performing theatre, to add to the conversation and put Malta in the spotlight – both to raise awareness about the situation there, and to offer a cautionary tale to international audiences: a warning not to be complacent about their own rights. Despite being about a difficult political topic, the show is also our love letter to our home country — a beautiful, progressive place with a rich culture and interesting history.

Marta: We were inspired to write the play in 2019 after the first ever pro-choice rally was held in Malta. A few months later, the pandemic hit but we decided to keep working on the show. With Zoom being our only option, our journey ended up being documented in a way that we never predicted… so we had to write it in the show.

Performing with my best friend is a blast to be honest. We’re really fortunate to genuinely get along so even during those tense moments that inevitably arise in a creative process, knowing that we have each other’s back makes it all better.

How does it feel to be sharing this topic with audiences, particularly those who may not know about the situation?

Davinia: We’re always surprised that so many people aren’t aware about the situation in Malta, considering it’s such a popular holiday destination and a former British colony. What’s more, I’ve never come across a show that centres the experience of Maltese women on a British stage, so it’s particularly important to me that we are able to spotlight our stories and share our love for Malta with British audiences.

Marta: Malta is such a popular holiday destination with the Brits! There’s a long history between the two countries and it’s an amazing place in so many ways. That’s where our conundrum lies. Malta is progressive in so many ways; free child care, education and healthcare, amazing queer and trans rights… so why this ban? Looking at what’s happening all around the world, a global regression in reproductive rights, we feel it’s vital to raise awareness about the situation. Not long ago we witnessed the US Supreme Court make good on a promise former president Donald Trump made when he ran for office in 2016: to appoint Supreme Court Justices who were sure to overturn Roe v. Wade. This is a decision that shoves reproductive rights back in time by half a century. This can happen anywhere, hence it’s important for us to amplify it. It feels very urgent to get these stories out.

What made you want to make this a docu-play, using interviews with activists and those with authentic experiences in Malta?

Davinia: At the core of the research process were real women trusting us with their experiences and with their pain. We let these interviews inform the direction the show took. We hadn’t realised how ready and desperate these women were to tell someone what had happened. Many of them had never told anyone before, because they were afraid of losing their job or being shunned by their loved ones or, worse, being criminalised. Simply repeating their stories would have felt exploitative. Instead, we created a piece of theatre that tried to capture something more nuanced and polyphonic: Malta’s culture and identity, its history, its beauty, and a chorus of voices that emerge from it.

Marta: We started by asking ourselves this question: what can we bring to this show that isn’t already available online? We decided we would do our own research and conduct our own interviews. The interviews and process were very different from what we’d expected. It wasn’t so much the circumstances of the abortions themselves, which were varied: from the simple fact of not wanting a child, to medical necessity, to trauma and abuse – no, we were more struck by little details.

There was one woman we spoke to who’d had an abortion 50 years ago, had been married for 40 years, and only told her husband about her abortion the night before we had our interview. The woman who told us she wanted us to witness her story, because the only person who’d ever known about it had passed away, and she couldn’t bear keeping it all to herself anymore. This process enabled us to shed light on these real implications of a blanket ban – the realities of driving reproductive healthcare underground.

Why is theatre an important platform for discussing political views and highlighting issues such as reproductive rights?

Davinia: In Blanket Ban, we do this by discussing things such as the influence of the church, internalised beliefs about women and motherhood, and social media discourse. We want to expose the mechanisms of theatre, the fourth wall is broken right from the start – with characters called Davinia and Marta speaking directly to the audience. Our stylistic choices serve to constantly defamiliarise what is being presented – this encourages the audience to engage with the piece with curiosity and surprise.

Marta: We’re working hard to make Blanket Ban an entertaining experience for audiences for a fun night out at the theatre whilst using our skills as theatre-makers with the support of our wonderful creative team to ensure the message is thought provoking for our audiences and that it stays with you, and you feel and share our rage. The theatre has always been one of the few places we are faced with hard hitting truths. Nowadays, I'd say it's one of the few places we get to share a communal experience. It’s the perfect place to be political.

How do you want the piece to impact audiences, and what would they take away from it?

Davinia: We wanted the show to be, above all, a consciousness raising exercise. To get people talking, and get them to realise that if they are affected by this ban, they aren’t alone. The response we had at the [Edinburgh] Fringe was phenomenal – almost every evening, there were women who wanted to speak to us about their own experiences, or who found the Abortion Rights volunteer to ask about the organisation and how they could get involved.

Marta: History has taught us that all rights for those not in the ruling class have been hard-won. It is through solidarity, organising and grassroots struggle that we have made the gains we have. Blanket Ban is more than just a show, it’s a cautionary tale and a call to action. There are many ways to help and support abortion access. Get involved.

Where would you like to take the production next?

Davinia and Marta: We would love to tour this piece nationally and internationally, and to keep performing it for as long as it remains relevant and politically pertinent.


Thank you very much to both Davinia and Marta for such an informative and beautiful expression about their show, Blanket Ban. I wish you all the best for the run, further sharing your important message, and for everything beyond that too.

Get tickets here:

Additional thanks to Emma Berge for coordinating this interview.


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