Last Resort. 2 Magpies Theatre. Summerhall. ****

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2 Magpies Theatre are back at Summerhall for the first time since ‘The Litvinenko Project’ and ‘Ventoux’ in 2015. ‘Last Resort’ takes its small audience to the holiday resort of Guantanamo Bay, usually known as a military prison, where torture and trauma are commonplace and, worst still; legal under America’s counter terrorism policy. However, on our arrival to the resort, we are greeted with a Cuba Libre and ushered to deck chairs with our own bucket of sand to sink our feet into. This might seem welcoming enough, but coupled with the glazed smiles of the tour guides welcoming us, we enter the dimly lit space with a sense of unease and anticipation. Creators (and performers) Tom Barnes and Eve Parmiter have considered how the juxtaposition of a dingy basement location, when dressed with conventional beach furniture allows the contrast of prison and holiday resort to resonate amongst us in a way that is both funny and disturbing.

During our ‘stay’ we are encouraged to get involved in regular holiday activities; visit the spa for meditation and Pilates, play some bingo and of course, those late night drinking games. However all is not what it seems and whilst we sit meditating, with flannels over our faces; we fear what is going on that we cannot see. Our participation in a drinking game turns out to be something much darker than one would expect and we are confronted with a visually horrifying scenario, forcing us to consider the shocking facts which our guides feed to us throughout our stay. It’s a multi-sensory experience, similar to the type of assault forced on a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, and the idea of contrasting this with a nightclub environment further reinforces the horrors which detainees face at Guantanamo.

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As political satire, ‘Last Resort’ encourages debate amongst its audience, especially towards the end when a hypothetical decision had to be made by the audience. The level of engagement served to prove how current this topic is. Did we think that when Obama wanted to close Guantanamo Bay by the end of his tenure that, not only would the prison still be open, but that the horrific techniques used there would be supported by the new administration? For this reason, 2 Magpies latest production remains extremely relevant, exploring an ongoing issue about which there is still a great deal of debate and opinion. 

This holiday really packs a punch. In some ways it’s not for the faint hearted, but that said, through their bold and confrontational theatrical approach, the creators of ‘Last Resort’ are certainly sending their audiences away with something important to think about.