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The Mistress Contract
His side of the contract may be sexual services although oral sex is as adventurous as it gets. What we see him receiving is a litany of complaints from her about the repetitive nature of their time together. She is a bright woman, a teacher, and he says he loves her wit and conversation but there is precious little for us to laugh at in her conversation.
She and He, which is what they called themselves when their book was published in 2011, met at college at graduate school and link up twenty years after that. Over thirty years they have made tape recordings of their conversations like an obsessive collector which they will pay someone to transcribe and put into a book. Their early repartee in the play is about He asking for oral sex and She asking what He thinks She has a vagina for? So why choose a relationship like this? We are told She was short of money and his business commitments involve travel. Note: there is no discussion about his providing oral sex for her.
There are scenes when He expresses affection for She where the contract interferes with the prospect of a more conventional relationship but so much of the play is about them and their static relationship as She waits for He to call and ask for a lift from the airport with extra services in the car. He is supportive when she undergoes a mastectomy with all the bodily insecurity that involves.
Are we meant to be interested when he buys her a vibrator which she rejects as a less than exciting present because she would be the one holding it? Do we care? The back of the play script asks whether the woman's contract was a betrayal of all the work put in by feminist theorists in trying for greater equality, or brave, honest and radical?
Usually attractive Saskia Reeves as She has been made to look very plain with straight mousey hair and large spectacles and Danny Webb as He is of middle age, middling height and middling interest in this part.
The set is large picture windows looking out onto a desert landscape with some of the cacti growing in an indoor door garden but that too is rather arid stuff despite the conversations He and She have about irrigation - is this a sexual metaphor?
They live now in different houses in the same Californian city and see each other roughly half the year and phone every day.
It may be that sex in a contract for the exchange of money and goods makes it just another commodity.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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