The Edinburgh Fringe programme’s standard listing format provides a simple yet clear message about Thief at the Hill Street Theatre. It warns: ‘Contains Distressing Themes, Nudity, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Scenes of Sexual Violence, Scenes of Violence, Strong Language/Swearing, Adult themes’. Beneath that there is the unwittingly humorous statement: ‘Babies do not require a ticket’. What more do you need to know?
A coarse, energetic, physically drenched performance.
Thief is certainly not a family show, unless you have teenage children aged 16+ to whom you want to reveal the seedier and seemier sides of life; in which case there is plenty on display here for their delectation. It all comes courtesy of Leith-born writer and director Liam Rudden and fellow Scotman, actor Lee Fanning. An almost overwhelming combination of writing from the region and an accent that could cut through the fog on the Forth. Fanning’s costume, however, betrays the unmistakably French connection that this work has with the darker side of Jean Genet’s life.
It’s a solo work that tells the story of Sailor, who grew up in squalid conditions with his prostitute mother. Abandoning that home he takes up his mother’s trade, offering himself to anyone who will pay. Not content with his fee, he has cunning ways to rob them of their valuables. However, his early years have left him a deeply wounded man, filled with self-loathing and given to self harm. He carries a knife not only to protect himself but also to scar his body. His lifestyle inevitably leads him to prison where he is further abused. Perversely, it all gives him a thrill that is both erotic and adrenaline charged. However, the downward spiral cannot go on for ever and eventually an early error of judgment catches up with him.
Fanning gives a coarse, energetic, physically drenched performance, riddled with anger that nevertheless has reflective moments. He senses the air of judgment that hovers over his character and at times launches challengingly into the audience with a questioning air of ‘what would you have done?’ That issue lingers. Is he incapable of extricating himself from the lot he has been given in life or is it the very beast that sustains him? Fanning craftily leaves the judgment to us.
Thief is a disturbingly frenetic and sleazy romp through the back alleys of life and Fanning proves to be worthy guide.