Daughters of Lot
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (Venue 53)
Star rating: * * * *
A couple of years ago I saw so much dreadful burlesque at the festival that I am now filled with fear when someone in a sweltering hot theatre innocently pulls out a fan.
I needn’t have worried though, as despite initial impressions this unlikely retelling of the biblical story of Lot from within a strip club is provocative not because it’s filled with sex (and it is), but because it’s an uncompromising parody of those who aspire to the po-faced, lacklustre eroticism of the adult entertainment industry.
Regina Gibson and Caitlin Mehner give vivacious performances as two self-described “whores” – brilliant comic creations who are also disturbingly realistic – controlled by compere Marlena Kalm in a send-up of a modern burlesque. They systematically mould Lot’s daughters – two 14-year-old girls in white – into their own image, before persuading them to sleep with their father; an event described in Genesis and the subject of many feminist critiques.
Alexis Roblan’s subversive script is much more nuanced than the pornographic rhyming couplets of the start would suggest, particularly so when the daughters, played with empathy by Naomi Bland and Rebecca Gray Davis, clash over the kind of woman they want to be. The folk tale of Atlanta becomes a metaphor for embracing “second best”, while a spoof political speech depicts motherhood as the way for female MPs to win votes.
There is a pretty bleak perspective throughout, in which men hate women and women are controlled by popular culture – one that is a punchy but polarised version of a more complex reality.
A description of a rape culminating with Kalm removing her bra is disturbing, but doesn’t stop a man wolf-whistling the cast when they take their bow a moment later. There’s a danger with this kind of piece that the audience see only the superficial sexiness and not the dramatic purpose behind it. However, gushing responses from men and women claiming life-changing revelations as they leave the auditorium mostly prove otherwise.
• Until 25 August. Today 11pm.