The nucleus of Liam Rudden’s new queer theatre piece Thief is by all accounts a legitimate and interesting one. It adapts a spell from the life of Jean Genet, who was dishonourably discharged from the French Foreign Legion and spent time as a thief and male prostitute across Europe in the early to mid-20th century.
Matt Robertson plays Sailor, the butch yet camp protagonist who descends into a world he calls out as seedy, but one that he craves, desires and requires. We’re indulged in explicit masturbation, rape and self-harm: an underworld that Sailor is clearly tortured and trampled with during this period. The trouble is that the show is sold as disturbing, to the point where its offenses are intended to provoke and aggravate us. But it does neither. Especially at a festival where hundreds of shows will push us in more nuanced, figurative ways. Thief’s central selling point is that it is led by a brutally powerful performance by Robertson, sadly of an unnecessarily exaggerated text.