‘Hello Sailor’ has become a camp, cheeky and comic cliché about casual pick-up sex. Thief is the real deal.
Inspired by the life and works of French playwright and novelist Jean Genet, Thief from Leith writer Liam Rudden, is a raw exposure of the life of one young man, Sailor, whose focussed mantra of ‘rent, theft and betrayal’ allows a rough survival in a seedy world. He steals anything except a heart.
Sailor (Matt Robertson) is the embodiment of someone who finds himself poor and alone in the world and who learns to use his body and his cunning to survive. He sinks to depraved depths yet holds his coiffed head high. Appearances are vital for Sailor. How else can he seduce? Experiencing murder and rape from an early age, along with a variety of abuses that are either self- imposed or from clients’ demands, Sailor is inured.
In Hogarthian style, Sailor appears at first like a stand-in for Jean Paul Gautier’s Le Male. Over the piece, the damaging effects of his short and brutalised life start to show. Stab wounds, self- inflicted cuts, needle marks – and these are just the visible wounds. Always on the edge of society and of life, Sailor survives prison and Russian roulette in spite of early days with his unloving ‘Dolly Mop’ Mum.
The play is set in a non- specific time, the set’s black curtains an allusion to the dark world that Sailor inhabits. There are only the minimum props of a large barrel on one side and a small chair and table holding the tools of the trade of an absinthe drinker and heroine user on the other. The soundscape of swooping gulls, swishing waves and haunting foghorn holds the audience to the docks and ports that are Sailor’s domain with funfair music adding a poignant counterpoint to his sordid world.
Rudden’s tightly written script uses direct narration throughout and is peppered with some direct rhetorical questions to audience members close enough to be engaged with. Robertson’s performance as the damaged and damaging Sailor involves a level of vulnerability and exposure beyond the norm that he carries off impressively.
This is a harsh yet pitiable tale of the lengths a human being can go to just to be held. A no holds barred piece of theatre – not for the faint of heart.
Thief premiered earlier this year at the Marlborough Theatre, Brighton as part of the Brighton Fringe where it won the 2014 Latest/Brighton Fringe Award for Best Theatrical Production.
Following two shows at this year’s Leith Festival, two further performances, that are part of Pride Scotia, precede the play’s run at this year’s Fringe when it runs from 31 July to 24 August (except 12 August) at Hill Street Solo Theatre (Venue 41)
19 and 20 June at 19.30
Tickets £10 (£8 conc)