Eve Nicol: 'The Mistress Contract presents debates about sex, power and exchange in which there are no easy answers'

Mayfesto presents a tale of sexual imagination: The Mistress Contract

credit: Derek Hunter

Director talks taking on provocative themes for the Scottish premiere of Abi Morgan's debut play

Eve Nicol has become one of Scottish theatre's rising directors – from her work with her own company Heroes to the recent tour of her first play, One Life Stand with Middle Child, she has explored contemporary experiences of sexuality and sensual experience through a distinctive and dynamic dramaturgy, incorporating elements of gig-theatre and new writing. Her appearance at the Tron's Mayfesto season brings the first Scottish production of Abi Morgan's The Mistress Contract, a strikingly honest study of how one woman bartered 'mistress services' for financial support. Within Mayfesto's theme for 2019, escapism, the script elegantly meshes a true story with reflections on feminism, sexuality and economic power.

'Music and sex are regular features in the stories I'm drawn to,' she says. 'Music is taking a back seat in this one whilst debates around sex rattles to the fore.' Morgan's debut play for the Royal Court combines tight scripting and provocative themes for Nichol: 'I'm big on character and language so The Mistress Contract is fertile territory for me.'

The Mistress Contract, based on a true story and taken from recordings of the couple's conversations, examines how a woman, engaged in the frontline of feminist campaigning, became part of a relationship that could be interpreted as either a brutal initiation of the most traditional heterosexual traditions or a bold reimagining of sexual intimacy in response to changing times and values. Unsettling in its honesty, and staking out a subject that is made unfamiliar through the specific contour of one relationship, Morgan's play takes full advantage of theatre's potential for public debate.

'The Mistress Contract presents debates about sex, power and exchange in which there are no easy answers,' Nicol continues. 'The story comes from a real life source which means it can't be dismissed as a fantasy.' The names of the couple are reduced to 'He and She', removing at least some of the realism and replacing it with a more abstracted conversation, as the pair discuss body image, sex in later life and the blurred lines of morality and desire.

Tron, Glasgow, Wed 1–Sat 11 May.

The Mistress Contract

A play by Abi Morgan based on the book The Mistress Contact.