"IT’S a very emotional show,” says writer-director David Leddy of The Last Bordello. “It’s been very high impact watching this amazing group of actors act out these incredibly emotive stories right in front of you day after day.”

Leddy, who’s made rich, provocative work for over a decade with his company, Fire Exit, describes the show, a co-production with Glasgow’s Tron Theatre where it opens next week, as “an absurd, sensual and provocative parable about trust and truth, domination and devotion, fact and fiction”.

An 18+ show with disturbing themes, The Last Bordello sees Aberdeen-born actor David Rankine perform as Mitri, a young terrorist who must lose his virginity in the last bordello standing in a war zone. Irene Allan, a co-star of Fire Exit’s 2016 production The Course Of True Love, returns as Madame, the neurotic overseer of the bordello’s inhabitants: a schoolgirl reselling her virginity each night (Helen McAlpine), the pregnant Virtue (Apphia Campbell) who believes she might be radical academic Angela Davis, sleekit cleaner Irma (Vari Sylvester) and Fassbinder, the feminine sailor-author (Matthew McVarish) who cuts a striking image on the show’s promo shots.

Fire Exit’s biggest production to date, the six-strong cast is in contrast to last year’s Coriolanus Vanishes, a dynamic monologue performed by Leddy himself.

Stage designer Becky Minto, sound designer Danny Krass and lighting designer Nich Smith, Leddy’s regular team of collaborators, are busy working on the company’s largest ever set at the Tron when we talk.

“It’s this really elaborate, beautiful design,” he says. “Because it’s a piece about the difference between truth and reality, about lies, everything in the show is semi-translucent – you can see that there’s something else beneath the surface.”

The Last Bordello has been in development for much of Fire Exit’s life so far, says Leddy, including extensive work with influential theatre veterans Neil Bartlett in London and Anne Bogart in New York. The idea came to him in a very specific moment.

“I was watching a very bad biographical play about Dorothy Parker at the Fringe about 12 years ago,” he says. “It was someone just pretending to write her diary at a typewriter and I was very bored. My mind started to wander. I thought it would be interesting to make a biographical play that played with the conventions of biography, with the ideas of truth and reality.”

He explains: “I thought that if you were going to do that, you should choose a subject for whom those ideas were pertinent. I immediately thought of Jean Genet, and of making a biographical play about him where I applied his own literary devices to a play about his own life. It’s all about these layers of contradictions.”

Dealing with troubling themes and layers of ambiguity, these are challenging, complex roles. They’re also linguistically tricky: at one point a version of a Latin Mass combines the language of solemn orthodoxy with elements of gay slang Polari. Both have been used to mystify and exclude as well as communicate.

“There are words in both that everyone will know, or sound like they might mean something, and words only some will know,” says Leddy.

“I like the idea of communicating to different people on different levels. The challenge is then to create something that communicates simultaneously to people who might get the historical and political references, those who might get all the intertextual references and those who are following a great story with these mesmerising performances.”

The cast, he says, is a “really lovely balance” of performers he’s worked with before, those he’s wanted to work with and those, like Rankine, for whom The Last Bordello is their first Fire Exit collaboration.

“These are very difficult roles,” he says. “Practically, emotionally, difficult to learn. They don’t have simple trajectories.

“I think I do this with my characters as I’ve got such faith in actors. They’re fascinating people to work with, so I want to give them meaty roles, really stretch them.”

A central theme is the fetishisation of dominance, the sexual abuse of power. It’s coincidence that The Last Bordello comes in the wake of the Weinstein allegations and #MeToo, Leddy says.

“In the last six months, it’s like the world has suddenly gone: ‘Yes, can we talk about how this has been happening all the time?’” Leddy explains.

“I feel I have never been silent about it. I’ve written play after play that’s going: ‘This is happening and it’s absolutely sick.’ I write about the things in the world that distress me. The unanswerable questions about events that shouldn’t be happening but are.”

This debut run at the Tron includes a Q&A session after Thursday’s performance.

“People imagine that I’ll be grim and serious,” Leddy says amiably. “But I’m quite giddy and good fun.

“On a fundamental level I’m a very balanced and together human being. I am able to close the computer at the end of the day and return to a life that’s very happy. That’s what gives me the ability to keep writing about these dark, brutal things.”

Feb 13 to Feb 17, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, 7.45pm, £15, £11 concs. Tel: 0141 552 4267. www.tron.co.uk

Feb 21 to Feb 24, Traverse, Edinburgh, 7.30pm, £17, £9 to £14 concs. Tel: 0131 228 1404. www.traverse.co.uk