Skip to main content

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

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Nomanslanding

Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …

High Society

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars

The stage looks gift-wrapped with a sparklingly expensive bow at the opening of John Durnin's revival of Arthur Kopit's Cole Porter based musical that reinvigorates the starry 1956 film where it originated. With the film itself drawing from Philip Barry's play, The Philadelphia Story, Kopit and Porter's depiction of the Long Island jet set says much about over-privileged party people, but retains a fizz that keeps it going till all passion is seemingly spent.
The action is based around the forthcoming nuptials of drop-dead gorgeous society gal and serial bride, Tracy Lord. With her daddy having run off with a show-girl, and ex beau next door CK Dexter Haven set sail for other shores, Tracy settles for George, a stinking rich would-be president for whom stupidity, as someone observes, sits on his shoulders like a crown. Enter Tracy's match-making kid sister Dinah and a pair of reporters for a trashy scandal sheet looking to stit…