Russell Barr’s Sisters, Such Devoted Sisters


Few plays provide images quite as unsanitary as those Russell Barr conjures in the opening moments of his intense, uneven solo show Sisters, Such Devoted Sisters. “I was in drag in the back of a halal butcher’s meat truck,” he recalls. “There were two other drag queens who were also in the truck. . . . One of the drag queens leant down and he picked up a pig’s heart, and he opened it up, and he pulled out the aorta, and he slapped the other drag queen across the face with it.” How offal.

Barr’s amusing, if unpalatable, reminiscences center on his years employed at a Glasgow drag bar called Madame Gillespie’s. His work colleagues, the sisters of the title, gulp GHB, attack transsexuals, and punch each other in the face—when they’re not hosting Bernice’s Barmy Bingo or Doris’s Karaoke. Though they lack structure, Barr’s tales of Scottish down-and-outers don’t want for salaciousness or scandal. Nor do his memories of his family: The Barrs’ various addictions include gambling, golf, booze, Jack Russell terriers, and child porn.

Barr may leave the tots alone, though he does portray himself as an occasional prostitute and semi-sociopath (he liked to make pigeons explode). But in addition to a good therapist, he could also use a more forceful director than Michael Imperioli, who hasn’t convinced Barr to jettison some stagey bits—long pauses, trembling hands, frequent retching. Though when both pig aortas and Jack Russell terriers appear so prominently, perhaps that retching’s called for.

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