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Thief - Fringe review 2014 by Sarah Agnew

Thief by Liam Rudden, Company: LRStageworks
Venue: Marlborough Theatre, Category: Theatre
13-18 May 19:30 £10 (£8) [50 mins]

So, Sailor runs on stage butt naked and stands there, with his back to us. He addresses us, You want to watch do you? he says in an unmistakable Scottish accent. His arms work at his side as he simulates relieving himself. The première of Thief had begun.

Not for the faint hearted they said, hard hitting they said, a tale of robbery, imprisonment and expulsion they said. Thief is a one-man play about a young man abused by life and intent on dishing out his own interpretation of rough justice. Dressed as an archetypal sailor, he tells us that he's been called sailor for so long that he can no longer remember his real name, symbolically representing his shattered sense of self.

The thing is with a one-man show, it can be difficult to pull off. There's only one person on stage to look at, only one voice to listen to. The skill of the writer and performer combined is to make that one voice sustain audience engagement throughout without the diversity a larger cast creates. Matt Robertson aka Sailor had a strong and emphatic delivery, which I felt was given added conviction due to his Scottish accent. He was angry, vulnerable, confused, a victim, a thief. Addressing the audience, he confronted individual members with uncomfortable truths. He was direct, unapologetic and uncompromising.

The writer Liam Rudden gave him a story that created all this, with each new revelation pulling the audience in even further. Rudden created a character whose emotions are not only acted out, but are shared by the audience. Sailor offers us a psyche that is complex, confrontational and crying with pain at the same time. It is a tribute to Rudden's storytelling ability that all of this comes alive. So powerful is this story that I have side-stepped detailing the contents because I don't want to dilute the impact. I want Sailor to tell you his story himself.

For those with some existing knowledge of the play you may be wondering why I have not yet mentioned the glaringly obvious. Robertson has the most incredible physique. His physicality forms a huge part of his performance, it is how Sailor defines himself as well as providing some great eye candy. However, for me his winning performance is testament to his acting talent and deserves credit.

As for the play, it is the best play I've ever seen at the Fringe and I'd be surprised if it didn't win some awards. Great drama has the power to inform, to move people and make shifts in consciousness. I feel this play has all this in bucket loads.

Sarah Agnew - follow on Twitter @IrishAggers

Just outside the Marlborough 13 May 2014 

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