Theatre review: The Last Great Dictator, Glasgow Oran Mor

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OVER the past 15 months, from Tunisia across the Arab world, the fall of dictators has been a recurring image on our television screens.

Kieran Lynn’s latest play for the lunchtime Play, Pie and Pint season is set in the presidential palace of a military dictator – elderly and nameless – who realises that his days are numbered. His government and staff have fled, the people are storming the gates, and he has no-one left to boss around except the work-experience tea-girl, who has been put in charge of everything from the hoovering to the ministry of defence.

If Lynn’s theme is promisingly topical, though, his development of it is disappointing, as a young student demonstrator with a gun enters the office, and the play drifts off into a long riff about how the old man is more actor than politician, and intends to manipulate his way to what strikes him as a fitting and heroic death.

The point seems to be that even when all their power has gone, dictators can still charm or bully people into giving them what they want; but to judge by the heavy weather made of Lynn’s brief but repetitive text by Gerry Mulgrew as the Dictator and Gavin Jon Wright as the student, it’s not enough of an idea to sustain even a short drama.

There’s more energy in the confrontation between the student and the tea-girl – fiercely played by Nicola Jo Cully – over whether the dictator should be shot on the spot, or subjected to the due process of law. But having taken the duff decision to put the dictator centre stage, Lynn finds himself with nothing to offer.

Rating: **