Mike Bartlett’s short, shocking play, Contractions, directed by Lisa Blair, is about corporate moral corruption.
There are two characters, Emma, poignantly played by Rose Leslie, and The Manager, played with a steely nonchalance by Sara Stewart.
In 14 brief scenes, Emma is summoned for a chat with The Manager, to review her progress in the sales department, and catch up with anything that might be relevant to the way she functions within the firm.
The play hinges on the firm’s definition of what constitutes ‘a romantic or sexual relationship’. Once it becomes apparent that Emma is involved in a relationship with
another of the firm’s employees, the exchanges become increasingly charged.
Emma’s sense of herself and her right to a degree of privacy are undermined by The Manager’s remorseless logic.
The play darkens, the satirical tone of the dialogue becomes nightmarish, the sense of being in an alien world that seems only one remove from our own is unnervingly conveyed. It’s no coincidence that The Manager isn’t named: she’s the embodiment of an inhuman force that sweeps everything in its way to one side.
The action takes place on a slowly revolving set – a clinical, masterful design.
One is put in mind of Brave New World or 1984.
There’s a chilling suggestion that the victim is being groomed to take on the role of her oppressor.
Contractions is at the Studio Theatre in Sheffield until July 16.