Perth company Flaming Locomotive have chosen McPherson’s one-man, one-act play set in Dublin’s violent underbelly as their debut, and have created a dark and engaging production.
The Good Thief explores the themes of regret, guilt and violence, and the influence of McPherson’s philosophy background is evident. These thematic concerns are never introduced obviously however, but are woven deftly through the action and the natural, colloquial dialogue of the protagonist.
The play recounts the story of a botched job by a ‘small fish’ who is sent to threaten a man on behalf of a local crime boss, but is instead embroiled in a bloody shootout and kidnapping. The plot is familiar to recent films like Jackie Brown, Pulp Fiction and Snatch, and the script to some extent mirrors these films in its melding of gritty violence and dark humour.
While the violence is described explicitly, the story does not become sadistic, and throughout the play there lingers the possibility of redemption, particularly through the relationship described between the ‘thief’ and the young mother and daughter he is forced to kidnap. The relationships are not fully explored, but allow for glimmers, if dim, of hope. Redemption is never fully achieved however, and the play maintains the dark and fatalistic quality of all McPherson’s works.
Being a one-man play, the success of the production lies squarely on the shoulders of actor Allan Girod, faced with the challenge of engaging the audience in what is essentially an hour-long monologue. Girod, under the direction of Michael McCall, achieves this almost effortlessly. His Irish brogue, which could have been a distraction, is consistent, and throughout the play, Girod strikes the right balance between enthusiasm and restraint. Instead of using movement and gesture as a fall-back for capturing attention, Girod lets the storytelling itself carry the interest and weight of the performance.
The strength of this production is that in each aspect of performance and design, the right balance is struck. Stacks of newspapers, and pieces of timber strewn against the walls and suspended at angles from the ceiling formed an effective set design. The set evoked a sense of things being in a perpetual state halfway between construction and abandonment mirrored in the protagonists unresolved journey. These elements, along with simple changes in lighting served effectively to create the settings described - a pub, an unfurnished house, a prison cell. The intimacy of the Blue Room theatre added to the feeling that we were sharing a room - a pub, a cell - with the thief.
The original score by Mia Brine added an exceptional and haunting accompaniment to the performance. The bare, evocative vocal pieces captured the fatalistic, dark, sensitive, understated feeling of the production. It was a pity her score was not used more - but then again, that was the strength of the production as a whole - each element was allowed to add without overwhelming.
The Blue Room and flaming locomotive present
THE GOOD THIEF
by Conor McPherson
Venue: Blue Room Studio 53 James Street Northbridge
Dates/Times: 24 July - 11 August. 7pm Tuesday- Saturday
Tickets: Full $20/Concession $15 | Blue Room Members $18/$12
Bookings: 9227 7005 / www.pacs.org.au