Contractions / North of Providence

Play With Fire, who have previously presented powerful writing in Orphans and Sans Merci, present a double bill as part of the 2017 GM Fringe at 53two.

Contractions by Mike Bartlett, directed by Sam Redway, looks at how far employers and employees will go in pursuit of the company’s needs.  It’s a play that is becoming more and more relevant as job insecurity increases.  What right does a company have to control every aspect of the employee’s life at work?  ‘Do you care?’ asks Emma.  ‘We have a duty of care,’ replies her Manager .

Clare Cameron is wonderfully controlled and detached as The Manager, who seeks to remove any emotional risks from the workplace, in this case Emma’s office relationship.  But the play is all about Emma’s emotional journey and the life changing consequences of the decisions she makes.  Amy du Quesne puts in an exceptional performance as Emma.  It’s the way that we see so clearly her journey, and how she changes scene by scene, that makes this play so emotionally engaging.

North of Providence by Edward Allan Baker is a completely new play to me.  Valentine’s Day in the Reagan era, a brother and sister try to reconcile their differences as their father lies dying.  Carol (Hannah Ellis Ryan) has moved on, moved away, and wants to help.  She steals her brother’s gun to protect him.  Bobbie (James Oates) is scarred by his own life and what he has witnessed of Carol’s.  They struggle to find a place where they can emotionally connect.

Directed by Daniel Bradford in a very effective, highly charged style, this is a play that grabs you right from the start and doesn’t let go.  Brilliantly acted, the drama centres on Carol knowing that this is the last chance for Bobbie to see their father, but Bobbie believing life will just go on as normal.  There is such anger in both characters, at what they have done with their own lives and the things that have happened to them, and yet underneath there is a tenderness that won’t go away.  In the quiet moments you are so desperate for them to find a connection that it hurts.

Two superb plays that appear quite different but work perfectly together.  Two plays to make you think.

July 26 – 29 at 53two.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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