The Last Bordello – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Writer: David Leddy

Director: David Leddy

Reviewer: Dominic Corr

“If you would like a programme, it’s just in the bin to your right” before this evening’s production commences, already we are on a slight back foot. An innovative theatrical creation has lasting effects outside of its runtime, something synonymous with David Lenny and Fire Exit theatre. Those familiar with his work will be reasonably prepared for what the dissident maverick of theatre has to offer. Though in truth, The Last Bordello is the most inimitable piece of Scottish theatre so far this season and that seems unlikely to change.

The closest resemblance to a plot is that of a warped biographical piece from novelist and playwright Jen Genet. A rather inventive biographical plot at that. As the muffled shuddering explosions are heard above on the streets of Gaza (or is it Barcelona?) we find ourselves at the saddest of occasions; closing day of a brothel. Mitri (David Rankine) seeks his place in the hyper-masculine eyes of his elder brother, to lose his virginity and finally fulfil his role as a freedom fighter. A terrorist. Surrounding him are a menagerie of rogues from the pages of a more macabre Lewis Carroll piece. All of whom have a part to play, some superior in this than others.

It’s difficult to decipher whether a weaker performance is down to the actor’s inability to understand the text, or if this is indeed the correct way to portray them. Whilst Matthew McVarish evokes the pinnacle moment of consternation, this build-up has been previously marked with an awkward delivery. The gradual build-up as time elapses, from the coy sinful into a depraved murk of discomfort, is helmed triumphantly by Vari Sylvester as Irma, The Chairwoman.

Gorging on every thematic opportunity, The Last Bordello offers a wide coverage of topics. At its grizzly underbelly sits a sense of injustice, unpunished vices. Our journey to this is fraught with lust, death, desire and exploitation any of which usually merits its own production. This eclectic mix is reflected in Becky Minto’s design aesthetic, its clinical white canvas with spurts of chaotic colour.

There is a strenuousness to Leddy’s work, undertones are often an enigma locked in riddles and embellished with puzzles. For those who may have found frustration in watching tonight’s performance, this is a reflective piece. Your grey cells are going to have to do some overtime here folks. The play is fast-paced, it’s almost impenetrable at moments. A single mistimed blink or distracted gaze can cause a lost connection.

As the bombardments cease, and the actors take to the audience in search of their maestro one begins to find closure. The crumpled pages erupting all around, a glaring burst illuminates us all. Though, even with the lights turned on, are we even any closer to seeing the truth? More importantly, do we even wish to face what was hiding in the shadow, for fear we enjoy it?

Production companies such as Fire Exit survive on funding to create productions such as this. They do not have the budget or marketability of a commercial show. Yet they speak with deeper layers, a complexity and individualism we cannot lose. With funding cuts by Creative Scotland theatrical production companies such as Fire Exit hang on the precipices. The Last Bordello, with its cabaret closure of vice and virtue, is hopefully not the taste of things to come.

Runs until 24 February 2018 | Image: Contributed



Review Overview

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The most inimitable piece of Scottish theatre so far this season

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The Reviews Hub - Scotland

The Scotland team is under the editorship of Lauren Humphreys. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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