Edinburgh Fringe: Thief, review

Homosexuality, rape, robbery, murder, prostitution, prison – Thief certainly doesn’t hang about.

Inspired by the works of French vagabond novelist and playwright Jean Genet, this is the confessional of one destitute man.

Starring Lee Fanning as the damaged anti-hero, Sailor, the bitterly dark tale – an award-winner at the Brighton Festival and a hit on Broadway – explores the theme of survival and what one will do to live.

For the loveless Sailor, his only real hope is prostitution and theft.

From the heartbreaking story of his sex worker mother to his own moments of sexual violence and self harm, Sailor’s unsettling anecdotes are an uncomfortable, yet intriguing watch.

With tales of self-destruction also comes dark humour, and even the audience shares a nervous laugh at some of Sailor’s less than elegant moments.

It’s brutally honest throughout, and there’s a fair amount of nudity in the show and explicit details of sexual violence – so it’s definitely not one for the kids.

Nevertheless, Fanning’s manic depiction of Sailor is well-crafted and his ability to command the stage throughout the hour-long performance is a stellar example of his abilities as a performer.

Brilliantly executed by Leith-born writer/director Liam Rudden, Thief is one of the must-see productions of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe – and it will be worth catching a second time when Broadway Award-winning actor Stephen Humpage pulls on Sailor’s Breton striped shirt from 19 August for the remainder of the run.

Words: Aimee Stanton

Thief, Sweet Holyrood (venue 94), until 27 August (not 24, 25), 10.30pm, www.edfringe.com

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