Review: Abi Morgan's Mistress Contract, Royal Court Theatre
Abi Morgan's new play is based on a book that is in turn based on the recorded conversations of a couple who shared a somewhat unusual relationship arrangement for 30 years.
He and She (Danny Webb and Saskia Reeves) meet as students and then again in their earlier 40s which is where the play begins. Both have failed marriages behind them and start an affair which leads to an assessment of what they each get out of the relationship.
She convinces He to start an experiment with a contract. He provides her with a home and an income while She provides him with 'mistress services', essentially sex anyway he wanted it. She is a teacher and feminist and He a successful businessman.
There is a point where He says to the ever present tape recorder that he doesn't come across well in the recordings but I couldn't help feeling it was She that doesn't come across well.
As far as you can tell from the play He treats her well and is in fact the one who shows affection. While She remains aloof and just lectures him as if he typified all men. In fact the sex stereotyping got a bit grating after a while.
In the end I was left not so much questioning whether the arrangement was against her feminist principles or not or indeed revelatory in anyway but rather what the real nature of their relationship was. There was an ease and honesty between the two of them which some may see as radical but little else. His declaration at the end of the play when their experiment has being going for 30 years portrays an emotional aspect that was little explored.
Mistress Contract feels like either an opportunity missed or an idea that doesn't quite stretch to fill 90 minutes. I think the fact that neither Poly or I mentioned the play as we left speaks volumes. It runs at the Royal Court Theatre until 22 March.
Had this in the bag with Abi Morgan who wrote The Hour in which Mr W played Freddie but then Carey Mulligan goes and turns up in the Royal Court bar making for an interesting 6DS-to-be. She is appearing in Abi Morgan's next project a film called Suffragette with Mr W.