I must confess that I was slightly intimidated about going to watch ‘Contractions’ for fear of having to sit for an hour and watch an artsy play about the pains of child birth. Thankfully this is not what Contractions proved to be about. Instead, it is a play about relationships and power struggles in the workplace, centred on the inconvenient pregnancy of one of the two characters in the play, Emma.
The Barron Theatre was cleverly converted to create the setting of the play, an intimate office at an unknown sales company. By rearranging the seating to go up the stairs, with the two characters thus performing in the middle of the audience, one gained a sense of being a fly on the wall in the meetings. Credit goes to the director, Fraser Craig and producer, Elise Galois, for this layout, as it created an immediate atmosphere on entering the theatre, which was maintained throughout. In addition, the attention to detail with the programmes and online descriptions of the play added to the overall character.
The acting throughout the play was highly commendable. Sarah Pollock’s performance as the unshakable Manager was entirely convincing and her sickly sweet delivery was – utterly sickening – quite as it should have been. Equally, Charlotte Kelly must be acknowledged for her brilliant performance as Emma. As the play tracked Emma’s relationship and mental breakdown, I’m sure I was not the only one in the audience who found themselves moved by such an emotive performance.
The ‘dark comedy’ aspect of the play was provided by the Manager’s cruel lack of sympathy towards Emma’s deteriorating condition, however at times I felt that the audience were not as completely responsive to the humour as perhaps they could have been. This can only be seen as a criticism of the audience rather than the production.
Overall, I felt that, for a particularly non-artsy theatre goer such as myself, it is a testament to the small but talented cast and production team to how much I enjoyed the play. In an earlier interview by Owl Eyes, the production team expressed that they wanted people to go away from the theatre thinking about the play, rather than immediately forgetting it. As I am thinking about it writing my review, they have achieved their goal for at least one member of the audience – but the high standard of performance leaves me in no doubt that they have been much more successful than that.