6 July 2021

Contractions - whatstick Theatre - Review

Whatstick theatre have reimagined Mike Bartlett's female two-hander, Contractions, and the result is a dark humoured step in to what can be the dark corporate world of business.


Directed by Georgia Brown the piece follows Emma (played by Ele Robinson) who is repeatedly interviewed by her unnamed manager (played by Kate Gabriel) about a romantic relationship with colleague Darren. It begins with a somewhat integration about the contract that Emma signed when taking on the role which clearly states that "no employee, officer or director of the company shall engage with any other employee, officer or director of the company in any relationship" and delves further and further into the of romance between the colleagues.


This one hour piece really hits first gear around the half way point during an interview where the pair discuss Emma's pregnancy with Darren at the six month point of the relationship, earlier in the piece Emma predicted the relationship might last six months and her manager takes that literally so when the six month comes and there is no end to the relationship she threatens Emma and Darren with dismissal with professional misconduct. The interviews becoming increasingly fraught and tense from here with threats of re-locating Darren to Kiev denying him seeing his son.



Even after the death of Emma and Darren's child, Stephen, the manager still keeps a grip hold on the control of the workplace. The believability goes a little out the window as the manager requests proof of the baby's death, requesting proof of the body after the funeral. This leads to the productions most moving and powerful moment as Emma is forced to dig up her own babies body to save her job once more. 


After bringing the body in, the manager explains that Darren has preferred to stay in Kiev. This leads to Emma questioning if her manager actually cares for the wellbeing of her workforce. This turns the action to Emma being more in control of her feelings and her shift the energy back onto her manager, how little she knows about her and questioning how lonely she must be but in the end the manager takes the grip hold of power. 


Gabriel is tremendous with her controlling delivery of the manager. She shifts her energy from small talk to delving and twisting deep into Emma's personal life and the relationship between the two colleagues. Robinson in the beginning is unfazed by the accusations but becomes increasingly unnerved and slowly unravels with the claustrophobic environment and the controlling nature of her manager. She's particularly powerful in the latter scenes.


The performance is staged on a fairly bare stage with the characters facing the audience rather than facing each other. The interviews are broken up by some physical movement with original music by Rachael Gibson. These moments capture an insight into the real chaotic relationship between the two and are a good way to break up the action - although it does leave the performers a little out of breathe as the next scene begins. 


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - two outstanding performances deliver a tense darkly humoured piece.


To find out more about whatstick theatre you can follow the company on Facebook and Instagram.

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