I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Mike Bartlett appears to be in line to take the mantle of the British David Mamet, but with Contractions, receiving its regional premiere in Sheffield this month, he’s not a million miles away.
After his scorching Bull, seen on this same stage and dealing with the same workplace politics in 2013, this piece of work is even harder to watch and packs even more of a punch. Ironic, given that Bull was set in a literal boxing ring.
Here, Bartlett’s two hander features The Manager and Emma. We watch on as they sit opposite each other on a painfully slowly turning stage, inside a ring of light.
The Manager suspects Emma may be having a romantic relationship – doesn’t she know they are forbidden by the contract which she did, after all, willingly sign?
The story unravels as we never leave the room, the progression and deterioration of the relationship and the effect it has on Emma viewed through the prism of the unfeeling unblinking company, embodied by The Manager.
On one level Contractions is about the relationship between employees and company and the compromises we all make for the comfort of a regular pay cheque. On another it is about globalisation and the way that the workers are kept under foot and on yet another level it is about the power organisations, from companies to governments, yield over the masses. It is intensely painful to watch Emma, played with a quiet desperation by Rose Leslie, squirm as her life unravels and the empathy she cries out for is nowhere to be found – certainly not behind the dead eyes of Sara Stewart’s manager.
This is an intense and painful, deeply thought-provoking piece of work.
To July 16.