Friday, March 29, 2013


Kings Arms Theatre Space at Studio Salford

Written by Mark Whitely   Directed by Ian Curley
Until 23rd March


 Rating: 4 stars


Two talented actors, a simple one-location set, a sharp script, and a trim-all-the-fat director add up to theatre at its most direct and unpretentious best. Mark Whitely’s tale of a couple of hours in the company of two cack-handed Salfordian burglars offers belly laughs a plenty, black Pinteresque humour, and a show-stealing budgie; what more could you ask for?

Callow youth Barry (David Crowley) is a sandwich short of a picnic, and is drinking in the last chance saloon (he’s on probation) with a wife and kids at home. Old lag Steph (Matt Lanigan), on the other hand, has accepted his lot in life and takes everything in his laid-back stride; until his meticulous planning begins to unravel, and the two find themselves dealing with a situation that nosedives faster than Manchester City’s current chances of retaining the Premier League title. A nicely unfussy set consisted of a central dining table, a full size working fridge, and small budgie cage, and provided a perfect platform for our hapless protagonists. Breaking into what they believe to be a flat full of valuable antiques (“cash in the attic”), with its owner away for two weeks in Majorca, Barry and Steph assume they have all the time in the world to help themselves, or at least Steph does as he makes a cup of tea, roots around for biscuits, and even considers relaxing with a sandwich or three. Lanigan’s Steph has the look of a man who’s seen it all before (and probably tried to nick most of it); he’s a career criminal who thinks he has an answer for everything. The actor’s hangdog, unshaven look and expressive eyes communicate every unspoken thought. He is superbly matched, and complemented, by Crowley’s performance; all adolescent energy, panicky mannerisms, and goofy facial tics (imagine Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates, but without the psychotic tendencies).  

Director Ian Curley allows the characters and situation to breathe, and there are plenty of pregnant pauses that add an air of gritty realism in to what could have been a broad, run-of-the-mill slice of working class comedy. There are moments of genuine pathos and poignancy as the two characters gradually reveal their inner workings and motivations. Steph’s revelations about his father are beautifully delivered by Lanigan who manages to steal our hearts even as he remains stubbornly unrepentant about thieving for a living. Crowley also shines when displaying his genuine love for his wife and children, and compassion for a terminally disadvantaged budgerigar. The two actors create a strong relationship, and ‘Thick As Thieves’ could easily act as a pilot for an ongoing series about this hapless pair; thick they may be, but they will steal your heart with consummate ease.


Tags: Mark Whitely, David Crowley, Matt Lanigan, Ian Curley, King’s Arms Theatre Space, Studio Salford, Salford, Manchester

This review previously published at www.thepublicreviews