Fringe review: Thief

fringeThis is a one-man tour de force, most engagingly played by Jack Elliot. A rent-boy sailor tells his story. It’s harsh and loveless, yet Elliot manages great tenderness and humour in the telling. It’s not all scary brutality.

As the play’s press blurb warns: ‘Sailor thrives in the bars, dives and doss-houses of squalid ports. Look, you will see him.

‘Sailor lives for robbery, imprisonment and expulsion. Be his victim.

‘Sailor’s ‘virtues’ are simple: rent, theft, and betrayal. Join him.’

Inspired by the life and works of French vagabond novelist and playwright Jean Genet, it is a dark, challenging, and not for the easily offended.

thief2As Sailor, Elliot has a remarkable range and is truly convincing at both ends of the scale. The full-frontal nudity is totally justified, necessary, and unabashed in this ‘bare all’ self-confession. Technically, as well as truthfully, Elliot and his director/writer Liam Rudden succeed completely.

For not one moment does the pace drop or interest flag, and Elliot’s timing never falters.

Non-Scots might need to adjust their Southern-attuned ears though, as no concessions are made to the vowel sounds more common south of Hadrian’s Wall. Sailor’s not a man to make concessions.

Rudden has achieved a sophisticated and complex piece of theatrical biography and has created a most interesting character, brought to life in this instance by the hot flesh and red blood of a devil-god Scot, wisely he has allowed the actor to take possession of the stage with his skeletal, yet subtle blocking.

Thief, Sweet Venues, runs until 30 August 

Words: Richard Franklin

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