Review: Short Blanket (Meraki Arts Bar)

Venue: Meraki Arts Bar (Darlinghurst NSW), May 18 – Jun 3, 2023
Playwright: Matt Bostock
Tiffany Wong
Cast: Andrea Magpulong, Sayuri Narroway, Dominique Purdue, Monica Russell, Joseph Tanti
Images by Phil Erbacher

Theatre review

Lainey is a playwright who finds herself working for the first time, at one of her city’s bigger theatre companies. Hired for her fresh and edgy take on racial politics, Lainey is suddenly in a position of having to take into consideration, the fragile sensibilities of those she chastises in her work, who have now become her main patrons. Matt Bostock’s Short Blanket deals with the nature of systemic racism, and the inherent resistance within prevailing structures that prevent individuals, from adequately addressing their failings.

It is a passionate work, excellent at conveying contemporary perspectives on matters pertaining to race and power, particularly within artistic fields. Some of Short Blanket can feel too obvious, but its efficacy at unveiling the surreptitious machinations of racism in our systems, is truly laudable. Directed by Tiffany Wong, the show speaks its political concerns with remarkable clarity. The application of a reverse chronology is initially challenging, but the play concludes satisfyingly, proving itself capable of sharing complex ideas, along with making some simpler emotive statements about the state of our world.

A set by Aloma Barnes and costumes by Rachel Pui Hui Yan, are accomplished with a utilitarian approach, reflecting a capacity for resourcefulness, which is always necessary for making theatre in emerging spaces. Lights by Mehran Mortezai too are pragmatically rendered, helping us attune to the atmospheric demands of the text. Prema Yin’s deliberative sound design bears a greater inventiveness, able to provide more than basic requirements, to deliver a sense of drama at key moments. 

Actor Andrea Magpulong is highly convincing as Lainey, the Filipina-Australian writer trying to maintain integrity at a workplace determined to suppress her truth. There is an intensity to Magpulong’s focus on stage, that is crucial to helping us maintain allegiance to the honourable principles of the play. Performances in the production are sincere, but some have a tendency to be overly theatrical, in an intimate space that insists on authenticity.

Change can happen in our big structures, but it is perhaps naïve to expect that their elemental foundations could ever be thoroughly transformed, on their own accord. So much of what we have is predicated on the oppression of certain peoples; they are built for the purpose of elevating some, whilst neglecting the welfare of others. It is hard to persuade enough of those who benefit, to want to make meaningful change to the very systems on which they rely on. It is far more likely that anarchic influences from the outside, will do the work more effectively.