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The Mistress Contract

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Four Stars

To paraphrase a non-pictorial edition of the Kama Sutra, and perhaps drag it into what may or may not be more equality enlightened times, a man and a woman will never win each other without a great deal of talking. Such a philosophical take on intimacy hangs over much of Abi Morgan's play, adapted from the anonymous memoir of a real life non-couple, who took a business-like approach to their non-relationship to the extent of drawing up a contract.

Said document decreed that the woman known only as She would be paid to be the mistress of her non-partner, known as He, with no visible strings attached. Over snapshots of the next thirty years or so, we see She and He before and after sex, recording onto cassette every piece of verbal horseplay from 1981 onwards.

Cal MacAninch and Lorraine McIntosh never make heavy weather of things in Eve Nicol's Scottish premiere of the play for the Tron's Mayfesto season. This is despite such self-absorbed warts and all documentation drawn from the book’s intellectual line of inquiry resembling everyday co-counselling. Much of this is managed on Alisa Kalyanova's chic-looking living room set by an easy physicality between the pair, choreographed by movement director Emma Jayne Park with an understated ordinariness.

In terms of the seemingly endless discussion between the two, as they grow old together apart, their sparring - about sex, the different needs of men and women and how each affects the other - could have been recorded yesterday. The fact that nothing remotely new is being said, let alone resolved, seems to be the point.

Perhaps most telling is that, after the apparent radicalism of such a long-term experiment, it's noticeable that what She and He resemble most of all at the end of the play is an old married couple. Such co-dependence shouldn’t come as a surprise, and, despite the pension plan of the book deal, it's pretty much business as usual.

The Herald, May 3rd 2019

Ends


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