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The Last Bordello

Tron Theatre, Glasgow Four stars
When the curtain opens at the start of David Leddy’s new play for his Fire Exit company in co-production with the Tron, it becomes clear that the six characters in search of an author onstage are as screwed up as the scrumpled programmes the audience have been tempted with at the door. The scene is apparently a war-torn brothel in Gaza circa 1970, where David Rankine’s horny Palestinian teen Mitri has been sent by his brother to become a man. Ushered into a flamboyant world of madams, maids, harlots and whores of every shape, size, colour and persuasion, Mitri may go willingly, but he soon becomes complicit in his own slow torture.
With the bombs outside sounding more like muffled depth charges, the sexual revolution may appear to be in full swing, but this is the brothel’s final day, a closing down sale of sorts where anything goes. To entertain Mitri, each takes it in turns to tell their story, so it becomes a parlour room cabaret while they wait on th…

Frank McGuinness - Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme

It's a good day at Blackrock, Dublin, where it may be the fag-end of January, but where the day is imitating a glorious spring day, chock-full of something that smells like hope. ''It hasn't rained for weeks,'' says playwright Frank McGuinness. He's done a full morning's teaching by the time I knock on the door of his little blue-fronted house. The lunchtime news is just finishing on TV, going over the headlines. Some war or other. The Omagh inquiry. The Bloody Sunday inquiry. McGuinness strokes his beard, grabs his big flappy coat, and we hotfoot it to his local before the weather forecast goes and spoils it all.
''We were always taught about 1916 in terms of the Easter Rising,'' he says, recalling the origins of his play, Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme in the early eighties, and which receives a new production this week at Glasgow's Citizens' Theatre. ''But the First World War was an absolutely cru…

549: Scots of the Spanish Civil War

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow Four stars
Four lads play cards in a quiet pub in the town they’ve known since they were born. One of them plays guitar in the corner, plucking out the accidental soundtrack to their lives. Come last orders, and all these boys’ arguments forged by shared experience – working class Tory, socialist idealist, hot head looking for a way out, and apathetic cynic – will be forgotten, washed away at the bottom of a pint glass.
Eighty years before, a bunch of young men just like them took a different course of action, as is made clear when the ghost of old-timer George Watters wanders into Jack Nurse and Robbie Gordon’s new play for their increasingly expansive Wonder Fools company. Developed over an eighteen-month research period, Nurse and Gordon’s play gives voice to the 549 men who left Scotland in 1936 for Spain, where they fought against fascism with the International Brigades. This is done by having four of the six performers onstage embody the spirits of the Pr…

Ellie Stewart – The Return

Ellie Stewart was in Toulouse when she first saw The Return of Martin Guerre, Daniel Vigne’s 1982 feature film set in 16th century mediaeval France. Adapted from Janet Lewis’ novel, The Wife of Martin Guerre, and with roots in a real life incident, Vigne’s film starred Gerard Depardieu as a stranger who walks into a village where he is presented as the long lost husband of a woman whose spouse disappeared seven years previously.
It was the 1980s when Stewart saw the film, and she was on a university Erasmus exchange prior to becoming a French teacher. It was more than twenty years before she returned to the Pyrenees from her Bathgate home, and things seemed as alien to her as much as they were familiar.
“I was being bombarded with all these sensory memories,” says Stewart today, on the eve of her own version of the Martin Guerre story, The Return, opening a fifteen date tour of Scotland at the Inverness-based Eden Court Theatre. “From a personal point of view, I was feeling changed and …

Rita, Sue and Bob Too

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow Four stars
As teenage baby-sitters Rita and Sue are presumed to be initiated into the ways of the world in twenty-something sleaze-bag Bob’s car, the opening of Andrea Dunbar’s still brutally funny fly on the wall study of life on the margins of Thatcher’s Britain looks like a Viz comic cartoon come to life. Played by Taj Atwal and Gemma Dobson with a fearless vivacity in Kate Wasserberg’s revival for Out of Joint, these already hard-bitten kid-ults know a lot more than they let on.
Three and a half decades since Dunbar’s play first shook up the London stage, this sense of street-smart sass is what drives it, with its reflections of more recent sightings of everyday sexual grooming now looking obvious where they once hid in plain sight. Set in front of a mural-sized photograph of Bradford by night, just a few chairs and the entrance to a tenement block are onstage to house Rita and Sue’s already spartan lives. The soap opera that unfolds is far grislier than any…

Adelle Stripe and Kate Wasserberg - Andrea Dunbar, Rita, Sue and Bob Too

When Adelle Stripe and Kate Wasserberg talk about Andrea Dunbar, they do so in the first person, as if they were mates. This is the case even though neither of them ever met the writer of Rita, Sue and Bob Too, Dunbar’s celebrated tragi-comic frontline snapshot of survival strategies in 1980s Thatcher’s Britain. Such empathy speaks volumes about the lingering power of Dunbar’s writing before she tragically died in 1990 aged just 29.
Stripe’s forensic fan-girl turned academic dedication to Dunbar resulted in Black Teeth and A Brilliant Smile, a brilliant fictionalised account of Dunbar’s short but turbulent life on the broken-down Bradford estate where she lived and died. Wasserberg, meanwhile, has directed the current revival of Rita, Sue and Bob Too which arrives in Glasgow tonight as part of a tour co-produced by Out of Joint theatre company with the Royal Court Theatre in London and Bolton Octagon.
Both Stripe and Wasserberg took part in a recent event at the Royal Court Theatre alon…

Max Stafford-Clark - Andrea Dunbar, Rita, Sue and Bob Too and A State Affair

IT IS only Tuesday teatime in Newcastle city centre, but, already, carefully demarcated packs of jacketless lads and lasses in hanky-size skirts are on the prowl, in search of that ever-elusive good time. This is the heart of Viz-country, where the cruel but hilarious parodies of home-grown low-life -The Fat Slags, Sid The Sexist, et al - seem to have stumbled straight off the page of the comic. Such economically-challenged grotesques have acquired a near-Dickensian immortality, destined to repeat their tragic adventures in nowhereland ad nauseum.
Across town, on stage at Newcastle Playhouse, a group of actors are going through the workaday motions of the final technical rehearsal before opening night. The characters talk of doing smack, of violent sexual abuse as an everyday occurrence, and of lives over-lapping in the most brutal of landscapes. It sounds neither sensationalist nor exploitative, but ugly, matter-of-fact, and how it is.
Of course, the lines are not of the actors' de…

David Leddy – The Last Bordello

When David Leddy visited Barcelona to research his new play, The Last Bordello, which opens in Glasgow next week, he went in search of a brothel. In a city which has an Erotic Museum that caters to hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, Leddy was far from the first tourist to embark on such a quest in the city’s Barrio Chino red light district, and he certainly won’t be the last.
Leddy, however, was looking for a very particular establishment, one which had been made famous on several counts, and which formed part of the inspiration for Jean Genet’s 1947 novel, Querelle de Brest. Genet’s existential yarn about sailors, prostitutes and drug addicts formed the basis for what turned out to be the final film directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the posthumously released Querelle.
On Leddy’s arrival, the establishment in question, Madame Petite’s, alas, was no more. Bull-dozed away, the once thriving house of ill-repute had been bull-dozed away, reduced to a pile of rubble at the end of …

Alistair Frusish, Daisy Campbell and David Blair - The Sentence

Call it synchronicity, but it was a series of criss-crossing connections which have ended up causing an epic four-hour live reading of Alistair Fruish’s already expansive novel, The Sentence, to be performed in Glasgow. This includes inspiration drawn from Welcome to the Dark Ages, the twenty-third anniversary reunion of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty’s art provocateur double-act The K Foundation in their Justified Ancients of Mu guise.
Fruish’s novel is enough by itself to point towards its experimental countercultural leanings. Plot-wise, The Sentence is a prison-set fantasia in which an inmate is given a drug that slows down time. It is in the story’s telling where the double-barrelled word-play of its author’s intentions become wilder and more mind-expanding. A 46,000-word opus with no punctuation and featuring words of one syllable only, The Sentence was tailor made to be read out loud, and the Glasgow date is the final show of a short tour of some of the UK’s lesser-spotted arts l…