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Short Blanket: Does Literary Authority Really Exist?

Short Blanket is a play that challenged hegemonic ideals of patriarchy, racism, and violence. A play that challenged my own biases and experiences different to my own.

Short Blanket, produced by Slanted Theatre, follows an upcoming writer, Lainey (Andrea Magpulong), getting her big break in theatre. After she’s exposed to the harsh realities of the arts, Lainey realises that she has very little control over her script. 

In order to put on a ‘good’ show, Lainey is told to substantively change her script to fit the creative director, Gloria’s (Monica Russell), wishes. Dominique (Dominique Purdue), the lead actress in Lainey’s play, speaks up about how the changes demean the story of the Filipino experience and how it restricts the reality of being in Australia as a woman of colour. She also begins to take issue with Joey (Joseph Tanti), a stereotypical white man in Australia who constantly offends the other characters with his racism, whilst continuously failing to acknowledge his systematic privilege as a white man. Short Blanket closes with a re-enactment of an incident of racial abuse that inspired Lainey to write the play.

Short Blanket was an extremely intimate show that unearthed the prevalent issue of racism in Australia. There were various scenes of sexual and domestic violence, alongside some vulgar, degrading scenes of how white colonists treated the population of the Philippines during the World War; placing emphasis on the ignorance of white Australians when pondering whether this was even factual. With its focus on racial hierarchy in modern-day Australia, Short Blanket portrayed the ways in which the Western world continues to make people of colour feel less than human. To the non-BIPOC audience members, the show forces further acknowledgement of privilege, as the prevalence of prejudice against race within everyday conversation tends to go ignored by the white community. With a focus on bystanderism, Short Blanket highlighted the importance of educating oneself to create a more inclusive society, particularly listening carefully to others’ experiences with empathy.

The show also highlighted another prominent dynamic: the male-female power dynamic. There were certain scenes where Joey had to shout very abruptly and portray abusive relationships, both domestic and professional, which seemed to have been comedic to male members of the audience, whilst the feeling of uncertainty and being on edge affected every woman in the room. The actors did an amazing job to evoke the fear that comes with being on the other end of an abusive relationship. I felt that anxiety in my chest and the drop in my stomach throughout the play; the uneasiness of an unhinged, powerful man in such a small space was extremely distressing. 

Through all these powerful themes of racial and sexual dynamics, the question of literary authority in the world of literature and theatre pervaded. With so many adaptations being made at the click of the fingers of a higher authority, it begs the question, does full literary authority really exist? As seen by the adaptations Lainey had to make to the script throughout the play, the message she originally was trying to convey slowly faded. Authorship no longer belongs to the writer themself, but to the editors, directors, and producing team alike. The show made us question the definitions of the term ‘author’, and become more inclined to believe there is no such thing as full authority over a piece of work. 

Writer Matt Bostock and producer director Tiffany Wong, did an amazing job utilising the small space of the Meraki Arts Bar to give a thought-provoking and enjoyable play. With humorous touches added sporadically, the audience was kept engaged in following the ill-treated experience of Lainey’s big break. With the actors’ captivating energies and the intimate set-up of the stage, it almost felt as though we were part of the show whilst being in the audience. Short Blanket is a play that challenged hegemonic ideals of patriarchy, racism, and violence. A play that challenged my own biases and experiences different to my own.

Hats off to the amazing production team and actors who were involved in the creation of this show; a truly brilliant experience.

Short Blanket will be performed at Meraki Arts Bar until June 3.

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