Iron Lady writer Abi Morgan adapts true story of a 'kept woman' for The Mistress Contract at the Royal Court Theatre
The Mistress Contract is written by The Iron Lady's Abi Morgan
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Monday 08 July 2013
Abi Morgan, the writer of The Iron Lady, is to make her bow at the Royal Court Theatre with the extraordinary true story of a woman who drew up a contract agreeing to be the mistress of a wealthy businessman, and has stayed with him for over 30 years.
The Mistress Contract, which is to premiere in January next year, is part of Vicky Featherstone’s first season as artistic director of the London theatre.
The play is taken from transcripts in which the anonymous woman and her wealthy lover share their most intimate thoughts. Ms Featherstone called the transcripts “extraordinary” adding that she and Ms Morgan were “very lucky to get hold of them”.
They were initially collected into a book, with the authors using the pseudonyms “She and He,” and published in the US in 2011.
The book will be published in the UK by Serpent’s Tail in November. Publisher Hannah Westland said: “I feel like it has taken on a life of its own. We had really high hopes for the dramatic rights as it reads like a play script. Vicky swept in very quickly and picked it up.”
The pair – she is 88, he is 93 – is still together, living in separate houses in the same city on the west coast of America.
She is described as a “highly educated, intelligent woman with a history of involvement in the feminist movement”. The pair first met at university before losing touch. They began the affair after meeting two decades later
Ms Westland said: “The identities of the two could probably be pieced together but we took the decision that this was an interesting story, and should be taken in the abstract.”
The book opens with a piece of paper they both signed in 1981. The contract stated that in return for money to live in “tasteful accommodations to her liking” and an income, she would provide “mistress services”.
These included companionship for the businessman when he was in the area, and “all sexual acts engaged in when requested by Mr [redacted], with suspension of historical, emotional, psychological disclaimers for duration of time requested”.
It stated that for the “duration of the agreement, Ms [redacted] becomes sexual property of Mr [redacted].”
She faxed the document through to her lover, and it was returned almost immediately with his signature.
The woman went on to tape every conversation they had about their relationship with a small recorder, whether travelling, in restaurants, on the telephone and even in bed.
“The transcripts and the play observe this couple,” Ms Featherstone said. “It charts the cultural journey of the last 40 years through books and literature, films they have seen and it’s about decay… It’s a very beautiful piece.”
This is Ms Morgan’s first play for the Royal Court. Her previous theatre credits include 27 for National Theatre of Scotland and Frantic Assembly’s Lovesong.
She has also written the screenplay for films including Shame, directed by Steve McQueen, and television work such as The Hour and the adaptation of Birdsong.
Also in the Royal Court’s new season is The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas, which marks Dennis Kelly’s debut at the theatre.
Mr Kelly’s work includes the Olivier Award-winning Matilda the Musical as well as Channel 4 television show Utopia.
November marks the arrival of Let the Right One In, a stage adaptation based on the Swedish novel and film script. The theatre described it as an “enchanting, brutal vampire myth and coming-of-age love story”.
The National Theatre of Scotland production premiered at Dundee Rep Theatre earlier this year and will transfer to the West End in 2014 after playing at the Royal Court.
The season will include works by Samuel Beckett as well as a collaborative piece called Peckham: The Soap Opera.
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