Liam Rudden: Living the Broadway dream

Bob Lyness, Liam Rudden, Stephen Humpage, Marcin Lipinski ''Pic: Susan Rostron
Bob Lyness, Liam Rudden, Stephen Humpage, Marcin Lipinski ''Pic: Susan Rostron
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BRIGHTON and Edinburgh Fringe. London, Leith and Orkney. New York!

When I first wrote Thief, a play inspired by, as someone once said “everything bad in the world,” it was a given it would premiere at the Brighton Fringe, a place edgy independent work can still breathe and flourish.

When it won the prestigious Best Performance Award there, it was a no brainer to bring it to our own Fringe.

Then London wanted it. Thief was invited to play the Lost Theatre. And Orkney - I have to admit I never expected Sailor, the play’s solitary character to be sailing into Stromness and then across to the Isle of Hoy.

The Leith Festival was next, in a tiny venue lit only by candles and oil-lamps (not really, they were battery powered imposters, health and safety and all that).

Never, in a million years, however, did I ever expect to find Thief on Broadway, 42nd Street no less, slap bang in the heart of Manhattan Island. Yet that’s exactly where I found myself last week, thanks to an American actor I first worked with nearly two decades ago.

Bob Lyness and I appeared together in a play called Dead Serious at the Demarco Foundation more years ago than either of us care to remember.

It was a fun piece - playing a psychotic killer always is. A year later we teamed up again when I narrated Pulse, a movement-based work from Washington DC’s Open Circle Ensemble Theater.

In the years since we’ve kept in touch. Then in 2015, Bob came to see Thief at the Fringe and immediately decided America had to see Stephen Humpage as Sailor.

“I’ll produce and bring it to the States,” he promised.

It’s the sort of thing you hear a lot in theatre, seldom is such a promise delivered.

But Bob was as good as his word, engineering an invite for Thief to appear at United Solo, the biggest one-man play festival in the world.

Which is how I found myself walking down Seventh Avenue fretting over how the piece would be received.

With themes of sexual violence, abuse and nudity, would it all be too much for a conservative Broadway audience more used to the likes of Les Mis and Wicked?

I need not have worried. New York welcomed us with unbridled enthusiasm and a standing ovation for Stephen.

So thank you Bob for having faith in Thief and wanting to share it. The problem now is, where do you go after Broadway? What can possibly top that? A film, that’s what, and an independent one at that.

I floated the idea on Facebook the other day, the response was so dramatic I could have cast it three times over.

But, if anything, the success of Thief, which has never received a penny public funding, confirms my long held belief that in life you have to dream. Without a dream, nothing happens.

So, who knows, maybe this time next year the adventures of Sailor will be on a screen near you.

Who wants to be part of the adventure?