Contractions

Emma is called in for a meeting with her manager and is reminded of a company contract she signed at the start of her employment: she must inform the company whenever she develops a relationship with a coworker of a sexual or romantic nature. During this meeting, it turns out that she went out for dinner with a co-worker. The rest of the play then consists of these meetings, in which Emma must discuss the nature of her relationship with this co-worker, and the company’s insidious mindset towards her personal life.

The play tries to make a comedy based on the absurdity of a company that takes an entirely impersonal, dehumanising attitude towards its employees.

From the very start, it is clear exactly where this play is going. Yes, Emma’s relationship with her co-worker becomes serious, and he gets relocated. Yes, they have a child together, and the company frowns on this and takes more and more ridiculous measures that tear apart Emma’s life. The play tries to make a comedy based on the absurdity of a company that takes an entirely impersonal, dehumanising attitude towards its employees. The script tries to unravel how the wording of a signed contract can be exploited by a company that only cares about profit, and how Orwellian surveillance can result from it. But the script is simply too boring to give life to the premise. It attempts to create humour from the manager being a robotic non-human and from the company’s complete indifference towards its employees’ humanity, but the progression of the plot is predictable and there is no subtlety or depth to the way the play explores the questions of capitalistic policies and surveillance.

The format of the production does not help with the script’s monotony. Scene after scene, the only thing that takes place on stage is a meeting between Emma and her manager. The actors are decent, but there probably wasn’t much they could have done to make the characters interesting. Overall, it is a play that wasn’t worth writing, and certainly wasn’t worth producing.

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Mike Bartlett's dark satire. In the office of a nameless manager, within an unspecified multinational company, Emma, a polite and successful member of the sales team, is asked to read aloud a clause in her contract which forbids 'any relationship, activity or act' between employees 'which could be characterised as sexual or romantic'. During the following meetings, the company's power and control over its employees' personal lives, and Emma's attempts to resist, escalate in their absurdity, humiliation and menace. Often ferociously funny while being absolutely appalling. Will make sure you never set foot in the office again.

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