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The Last Bordello review at Tron Theatre, Glasgow – ‘David Leddy’s distinctive vision’

The cast of The Last Bordello at Tron Theatre, Glasgow. Photo: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan. The cast of The Last Bordello at Tron Theatre, Glasgow. Photo: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan.
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In the light of the company’s recent loss of Creative Scotland funding, Fire Exit’s The Last Bordello is a timely reminder of writer and director David Leddy’s distinctive vision.

A tribute to the life and work of Jean Genet, Leddy’s text references the French literary renegade and imitates his fusion of the sacred and the profane, filtered through Leddy’s simultaneously intellectual and coarse wit.

The plot – the residents of a Palestinian brothel celebrate degradation while awaiting the demolition of their home – is undercut by meta-theatrical commentary, with an innocent customer drawn into a sinister ritual. The stereotypes are exposed as performances, and the episodic structure follows their invented stories of sex and violence, as well as Genet’s biography.

Becky Minto’s strong design encases the ensemble cast in a flexible set that serves as brothel, intimate theatre and, finally, a suggestive landscape of detritus and destruction, while the text both embraces and deconstructs the notions of authenticity and sexual extremism that shaped Genet’s career.

As the characters point to their own inauthenticity, Leddy develops an intense dramatic conflict between corruption and naive sexual desire, with a subtle melodramatic flair.

If the performances never quite reach the depths of depravity of which they speak, the sterile atmosphere enhances the fragility of their fantasies as their fantasies become darker and the atmosphere shifts from teasing to murderous. But even that is not so simple: the final scene forces a further questioning of the play’s intentions, lending it the distinctive Fire Exit cerebral flavour.

Creative Scotland reverses funding decisions following outcry

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David Leddy’s taut exploration of sex, death and performance