JOYCE MCMILLAN on AN APPLE A DAY at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman, 8.4.09
3 stars ***
LIKE A BEAUTIFUL APPLE POISONED on one side, full of flavour on the other, Jo Clifford’s new short drama for the Play, Pie and Pint lunchtime season – transferring to the Traverse next week – is a show of two very different halves. Set in a small, pink-draped flat in central Edinburgh, the play traces a strange 50-minute encounter between a transsexual prostitute and an unusual client, a buttoned-up business type with a strong German accent and a small attache case. He is seeking relaxation before an important speech to the General Assembly, she is full of the doubts, self-hatred, wry humour and fundamental sweetness of a human being who has made the long, difficult journey across the gender gap. And in the play’s long opening sequence, their conversation stumbles grimly around in circles, dealing largely in predictable stereotypes of the sex trade, and in repetitive evasions of the business in hand.
As soon as the client opens his case, though, and begins to explain exactly what he wants his companion to wear and do, the play takes a swoop into much more dangerous and thrilling territory, painfully honest, genuinely erotic, and full of weird and though-provoking collisions between what we normally consider profane, and a profound and ecstatic sense of the sacredness of the body. In Cheryl Martin’s production, Crawford Logan as the client, and David Walshe as the prostitute, turn in performances that grow immeasurably in courage and complexity as the play evolves. And the imagery of the apple – which plays a key part in the client’s fantasies – evokes an atmosphere both of magical fairytale, and of the Garden of Eden, in a tentative but ultimately beautiful and challenging short play that moves boldly into the heartlands of erotic imagination, where few playwrights – even in our times – truly dare to tread.