Hundreds of hopefuls enter competitions, few expect to win – not even Carole Joseph, who has entered the same contest 63 times, under a variety of names, and is astounded by her prize of a holiday for two in glitzy Las Vegas.
The winning name she ‘borrowed’ is that of Norah Toomey, a middle-aged psychiatric patient – not exactly the ideal travelling companion for a lively 18-year-old out for kicks. The two depart together, and a surprising bond of affection and dependence develops between the unlikely pair: impulsive Carole with her seesaw moods and explosive sexuality egging on the shy, unworldly Norah, whose only break to date from a lifetime in institutions has been the annual hospital day-trip to Littlehampton.
But Las Vegas isn’t Littlehampton, as these two innocents discover to their cost, as they are plunged into a lurid world of strippers and gamblers, brothels and crime. Sin City, on the surface, is a fairy-tale come (almost) true, a Disneyland for grown-ups, but beneath the neon rainbows lies not a crock of gold, but danger and delusion.
Carole chases romance as well as Lady Luck, changing names to match the men she meets; lands up in a whorehouse in the desert. Norah, holy fool, finds total freedom more threatening than total constraint. Her muddled perception of the non-stop noise and neon, the garish merry-go-round, which won’t stop and let her off, is both hilarious and moving. For both women, Las Vegas is a watershed, a crisis-point.
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