The Mistress Contract** (Royal Court Theatre, 21 February 2014)

Posted: February 21, 2014 in Theatre

Based on tapes recorded by a real life American couple over a 30 year period, Abi Morgan’s new play explores the sexual politics surrounding a relationship in which a middle aged woman formally contracts to be the mistress of her long-time lover in return for material rewards. Tackling the issues with a feminist slant, the play is always well-written but so would be a lecture by Germaine Greer and audiences go to a theatre to see a drama not to listen to a thesis. Almost exactly one hour into the play’s 90 minutes, one of the characters shows the first flicker of emotion and, thereafter, the now geriatric pair offer only occasional hints that there might be bonds of affection between them that transcend their cold business arrangement. Saskia Reeves and Danny Webb are fine as the couple, but they could have been better if their performances had not been burdened by forced American accents. As the themes are universal, perhaps Morgan would have done better by abandoning factual accuracy and setting her play in, say, London, thereby helping us to connect with the characters. The accents and a desert set that looks as if its designer raided Kew Gardens for every variety of cactus in existence only serve to distance us further from them. There are plenty of interesting ideas under discussion here, but they do not add up to very good theatre.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.