The Last Bordello
- Lorna Irvine
- 21 February 2018
Genet inspired games wrestle with identity in provocative drama
David Leddy is a big tease, and The Last Bordello is his theatrical foreplay. At once a Pierre et Giles wet dream and stinging meta indictment of how mainstreamed the BDSM industry has become, it's framed around the life and works of French writer and activist Jean Genet. There are no safe words, and no safe spaces, in the brothel, loosely based on where Genet worked in Barcelona, where innocent soldier Mitri (David Rankine) wanders in. The characters are reminiscent of a pack of tarot cards, symbolic yet mysterious: Mitri could be The Hanged Man, a figure of ambiguity, and Madame (Irene Allan) the High Priestess. The brothel 'family' form a cross with their bodies, and the Tom of Finland styled sailor Fassbinder (Matthew McVarish) is The Devil in little white shorts, taking role play too far.
The others are more mutable, as their stories overlap with true events (the rise of the Black Panthers, conflict in Gaza). Darling (Helen McAlpine) plays the Lolita doll and Virtue (Apphia Campbell) takes the audience to church, with her evangelical monologue.
The script toys with the construction of gender and identity, and the way fetishes are formed in childhood, before chasing murkier themes, like sexual arousal through violence and the civilian cost of war. The cast are wonderful, particularly Vari Sylvester as both Solange and Claire in her maid role as Irma, and Allan's purring Madame, who's hiding something.
Indeed, slippage is woven into the fabric of it all- the actors lament their limited spaces and characterisations, and Becky Minto's glorious set is both gauzy and narcotically disorienting with the use of soft white drapery, neon and the way it initially opens just a crack like a peep show. It may sometimes feel too episodic, but it's a bold game with equal parts beauty and brutality.
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed 21–Sat 24 Feb
Reviewed at Tron Theatre, Glasgow