Mike Bartlett
Sussex University Drama Society
C Nova

Capitalism, feminism and themes of a sexual nature all wrapped up in a well-executed and stylised theatrical conversation. Sussex University Drama Society's Contractions at C Nova is a simple, thought-provoking piece of theatre that highlights modern day issues in extremely creative ways.

As you walk into the auditorium, you can't help but feel you are intruding on a high-falutin' business woman's personal space. The vibe created by Imani Robinson's presence as the Manager is extremely intense and is heightened even more by the sound of office work and machinery playing in the background. As an audience you are invited into a course of meetings between the manager and Emma (Thea Hope), a young woman battling to keep her job while still enjoying her own personal life under the constrains of business policy and etiquette.

Mike Bartlett's play gives us a thought provoking, exaggerated view of the capitalist world we live in today where we are governed by those above and there is no way out. Emma is determined to live a normal life with a male work colleague but from the outset this is frowned upon by those in charge. As soon as there is a marriage and baby in the equation, the company pushes the new family into a corner, leaving the young office worker with a relationship in disarray and the body of her dead baby lying on her bosses desk. The ending of this play is harrowing to say the least but is performed with dignity and strength to the very end.

Both actresses are sublime in their portrayals. Hope's anguish and disbelief at the start of the play is just as convincing as her emotional distress is at its conclusion and Robinson's robotic delivery and emotionless characterisation lends itself to her portrayal impeccably.

The simple set of a desk, two chairs and some office essentials is all that is necessary and, when added to the blue lighting of the transitions between meetings, it becomes a captivating focal point for the entire show. The transitions themselves seem slightly unnecessary at times with the Manager rearranging her desk for no apparent reason, but this down side is easily passed over as the scenes flow nicely from one to the other.

Sussex University Drama Society has certainly excelled themselves with this near to flawless production. It is thought-provoking and emotional yet still holds onto the little cracks of humour Mike Bartlett has created.

Contractions runs until 10 August at C Nova studio 2.

Reviewer: Liam Blain

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