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Theatre Review: Lot and His God ****

Lorna Irvine reviews 'a furious symphony of disdain and dissolution'.

There is role-playing...and then there is role-playing.

Howard Barker's intellectual battleground, set in the last days of Sodom, eschews simple Biblical comparisons for something much denser, postmodern and richly textured. Dead flowers in a filthy cafe become a symbol of all hope spent, the end of romance and civilisation fallen.

Here, Lot's wife, named Sverdlosk by Barker and imperiously portrayed by a brilliant Pauline Knowles, is a slightly OCD tease, always in gloves, whose sexual agency is part of her self-possession. When she seduces a filthy angel, Drogheda, a flashing-eyed ragged-trouser misanthropist (played by Daniel Cahill) in the cafe, he becomes sadistic, rendering a creepy sweaty waiter (Ewan Sommers) blind, deaf and dumb. Their volley of insults is like foreplay. Lot himself (Cliff Burnett) is louche, voyeur to the destruction, almost eviscerated by the coupling—full of exquisite agony, fetishising accoutrements of female style—hats, gloves, stockings and long hair, at once aroused and repulsed by the affair.

Barker's complex, dialogue-heavy writing hangs between love, parodies of love and power—the sexual game-playing could be perceived as a way of revitalising a jaded marriage or a wider question of patriarchal influence in religion. Everything, no matter how clean, leaves a stain, and places that are public become tainted by sordid behaviour.

It's a furious symphony of disdain and dissolution. Debbie Hannan's splendid, edgy direction retains the potency of Barker's script, keeping the audience compelled until the last gasp—physically draining to watch, let alone exhausting for her marvellous cast to perform. After all, the French don't call post-coital sadness 'la petite mort' for nothing.

Part of the Up Close Season at the Citizens Theatre, at Citizens Theatre from October 3rd-10th

Tags: theatre

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