JOYCE MCMILLAN on THIEF at the Pleasance Cabaret Bar, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 21.6.14.
3 stars ***
THERE ARE SEA sounds, the cry of gulls, ship’s bells; then Sailor rushes to the stage from the auditorium, almost as naked as the day he was born. He is a whore, a thief, a beautiful young man who will sell himself to the highest bidder. And in this new one-hour play by Liam Rudden – inspired by the life and works of the playwright, thief and runaway Jean Genet, already an award-winner at the Brighton Festival, and set to appear at Hill Street Theatre in August – we follow Sailor through seven ages of his short life.
So first, we meet Sailor the successful rent-boy; smart, cynical light-fingered. Then it’s Sailor the killer and brutalised prisoner, Sailor unloved by his prostitute mother, Sailor the heroin addict, and Sailor about to conclude his tale, when life catches up with him. All of this is captured with great intensity by the actor Matt Robertson; and if Rudden’s text sometimes resorts to the odd cliche, his production maintains a ferocious pace, right to its sensational final scene.
In the end, there’s perhaps a dimension of strangeness to Genet’s story – a hard 20th century edge of cold political caricature and rebellion – that doesn’t quite emerge from this robustly direct show, bathed in the dusky light of an old port town. Yet it’s a memorable hour of theatre, nonetheless; not least in its journey through the litany of human self-harm and self-destruction that often underpins the bravado of those who say that love and compassion mean nothing to them, and that, like Sailor, they only know three virtues – rent, theft and betrayal.