JOYCE MCMILLAN on THIEVES AND BOY at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 7.5.13
4 stars ****
IN A LUXURY apartment block in a Chinese city, something is stirring. A pair of thieves are making their way up 27 floors, through back stairs and ventilation tunnels. Their aim is to reach the penthouse flat of a corrupt politician, where they know there is a huge stash of ill-gotten cash; so when their midnight prowl across the roof is interrupted by the presence of a half-drunk rich kid threatening to throw himself over the edge, they are slightly at a loss.
This is the opening of the second play in the current season of new plays from China, co-produced by Play, Pie and Pint with the National Theatre of Scotland and the Confucius Institute; and as Hao Jingfang’s story veers from knockabout comedy into brutal tragedy, it’s clear that this is another memorable short play about a China shocked and traumatised by the huge economic inequalities that have opened up over the last two decades.
The kid, as it turns out, is a philosophy student, conscious of the need for China to get its ravenous desire for material wealth back under control, and for his father to pay for his crimes; the thieves are just ordinary guys, seeking a little of their own back from the class that has been looting the nation. The ending is bitter, the mood increasingly dark. Yet the energy is terrific, in this English version by Davey Anderson; and Martin Docherty, Ross Allan and Marco Chiu are unforfgettable as thief, thief and boy, locked together in an eternal triangle of hate, envy, and stubborn human connection.