In the five years since its first production, Mike Bartlett's play Contractions has gained even more resonance in these recession hit times. As big corporations increasingly exert control over every aspect of their employees lives, this biting satire examines just how far employers will go to get their pound of flesh and how much employees are willing to tolerate in order to hold on to their jobs.
Working for a large company with a 'relationship clause' that forbids any interpersonal relations between employees, Emma is invited for a chat with her manager. An innocent, 'Emma, come in, how are you?' quickly turns into something much more sinister.
With each subsequent 'chat' we descend deeper into the moral abyss, the tone becoming increasingly terse, the questions more astonishingly intrusive as Emma is manoeuvred into admitting a relationship with a fellow employee. At first bristling against the audacity of the questioning, Emma eventually concedes every cringe-worthy detail of her personal life in order to hold on to her job.
Staged on a spare set as a series of short scenes, the drama unfolds at a brisk pace. The dialogue is vivid: the disturbing questioning eliciting an equal amount of gasps and laughs. As the manager, Imani Robinson is utterly chilling, there is menace in every carefully chosen word that is delivered from behind the rictus smile and Thea Hope charts Emma's descent from confident employee to emotional wreck utterly convincingly. To their credit, neither actor overplays it as they so easily could have: the carefully measured delivery adds a truthfulness and believability to every line.
What at first appears to be completely implausible to the audience, soon begins to have just enough of a ring of truth to be entirely possible. The gasps of incredulity soon give way to murmurs of recognition. This is the work of a sharp intelligence performed by two gloriously talented actors. An occasionally disturbing, often funny, original and utterly memorable play.