The Mistress Contract
- Lorna Irvine
- 7 May 2019
New adaptation of Abi Morgan play examines power, consent and desire over the years
Sometimes, it seems, love affairs can be pared down to simple terms and conditions. Inspired by the memoir by 'She' and 'He', Abi Morgan's intelligent, tender and moving play feels very much of the moment.
She (Lorraine McIntosh) has read all the significant feminist tracts, from Betty Friedan to Andrea Dworkin. But getting together with womaniser He (Cal MacAninch) means all of her reserve, along with any notions of equality, melt away during sexual intercourse. This, She reasons, is lust in all of its primal energy, so She decides to draw up a contract with her lover whereby she submits to his sexual whims and He pays for accommodation and extraneous luxuries.
But this is not a simple sub/dom paradigm, and the complexities of heterosexual consent and growing old independently are debated as the couple meet up and tussle with each other over the decades.
Eve Nicol's beautifully judged direction lets the pair's relationship smoulder, with them weathering divorce, parenthood, jealousy and potential lovers who slipped from their grasp. There's a lovely chemistry between McIntosh and MacAninch, kind of like a less vicious Taylor and Burton, but the script never pulls its punches. It's searingly honest, if at times a little too verbose.
This is, above all, a pas de deux in all but name, so it's apposite that Emma Jayne Park's graceful movement choreography underpins the production. And as He stays with She through the trauma of breast cancer and her mastectomy, He finally seems to soften, with a sense of something close to love, or at least a circling back to each other.
Tron Theatre, Glasgow until Sat 11 May