Gary Flockhart: Beg, borrow or steal to see Thief

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THE port of Leith is the place to be this weekend when its annual Festival gets underway tomorrow.

With more than 100 events programmed across 27 venues in an exciting programme of theatre, music and comedy, there’s sure to be something to suit all tastes.

Now, obviously I can’t vouch for all the shows without having seen them first. But one play I advise you to make a beeline for is Thief, a new piece of experimental theatre inspired by the life and works of French literary outlaw Jean Genet.

I was lucky enough to see this affecting production in rehearsal – and I was blown away by it.

Thief went on to make its debut at last month’s Brighton Festival, where it was greeted with tears, cheers and five-star reviews aplenty.

That the play went on to win Best Theatrical Performance 2014 is reason enough to see it when it makes its Capital debut this weekend at the Leith Festival before transferring to the Fringe in August.

So what’s it all about? Well, in a nutshell, it’s the story of Sailor, a transient who thrives in the bars, dives and doss-houses of the most squalid European ports. Sailor lives for robbery, imprisonment and expulsion, and his virtues are simple: rent, theft and betrayal.

Matt Robertson is mesmerising as Sailor, a man struggling to maintain his last ounce of humanity and self-respect, while doing what it takes to survive.

“It is the life of vermin that I am going to describe,” Genet remarks in an early passage in The Thief’s Journal; and the same goes for Sailor in a play that’s not for the easily offended.

Robertson’s anti-hero coaxes us into his debauched world with a rich, layered tale of poverty, criminality and vice that will resonate with audiences long after the final curtain falls. Don’t miss it.

Thief, The Granary, The Shore, Saturday and Sunday 6pm, £10,