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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 the Godot-like maestro, aka brothel-creeping ex con turned man of letters and unrepentant purveyor of the sacred and profane, Jean Genet. As his spirit haunts the place, so too do possibly second-hand memories of the bordello in Barcelona he made himself at home inside.

Leddy’s own production constructs an unhinged Russian doll of a play, where occupants of this self-created republic’s surface sumptuousness try on different identities for size as they shelter from the blast. As Helen McAlpine’s Darling, Vari Sylvester’s Irma, Irene Allan’s Madame, Apphia Campbell’s Virtue and Matthew McVarish’s sailor-suited and tellingly named Fassbinder lead us on towards the big reveal, image is everything in a last-gasp evocation of cracked and corrupted beauty.

The Herald, February 19th 2018

ends

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