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Monday, September 19, 2016


(Emily Child & Janna Ramos-Violante)
Report from 2016 Hilton Arts Festival: Janna Ramos-Violante and Emily Child put in fine performances in Contractions. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Written by Mark Bartlett, Contractions takes a cynical look at the corporate world. The play was first presented by London’s Royal Court Theatre and debuted in South Africa in January this year at the Alexander Bar where it played for three weeks to sold-out houses.

The stage is bare apart from a desk and two chairs side by side – although the audience understands that the characters are sitting opposite each other. The situation deals with a line of interviews by an HR manager with one of the company’s employees.

As the HR manager, Ramos-Violante stays solidly still all the way through. Rooted to her desk, her only gestures involve indications to the employee (Emma) to sit down or to look through papers or write something in her file. The rest of the action involves Emma’s constant visits to the office with changes of lighting noting the passage of time.

The manager calls her in to remind Emma of the clauses of her contract which is clear in its discouragement of personal and sexual relationships between members of staff. Emma is made to read a relevant clause and the HR manager then interrogates her about a relationship which Emma has denied. However, the manager has another side of the story from the gentleman in question.

And so the matter progresses with constant interviews where Emma’s claims are disputed and there are veiled threats as to what will happen if she doesn’t toe the line. Toe the line she does – to drastic conclusions.

Janna Ramos-Violante impresses with her interpretation of the unemotional and immovable HR manager offering probing questions while leading her employee towards the answers she seeks. Emily Child skilfully handles the different emotions required from the troubled Emma. Under Greg Karvellas’s sure direction, the dialogue between them is riveting and thought-provoking.

Don’t miss this production if it comes your way! – Caroline Smart