I’m an avid fan of site specific theatre, especially when the function and texture of an unconventional venue are well suited to the story being told. Noonan’s Irish Pub is an ideal spot to experience Conor McPherson’s The Good Thief. Fly on the Wall Theatre provides an intimate realism for this tale of a small-time thug making peace with himself.
Nursing a Guinness over the course of a colourful monologue, David Mackett tells us the story of how his unnamed narrator came to spend a decade in prison. He takes us back to the messy night it all started. Estranged from his ex-girlfriend, Greta, he’s lovelorn and a little too concerned with the anal sex he imagines she’s having with some local bar-owner.
When a simple, easy job roughing-up a mark goes horribly wrong, he finds himself on the run with the dead man’s wife and daughter. Mackett’s unshaven, chiseled features and gruff demeanour conjure a warm yet disquieting spell. He drags us along on this fast-paced, violent, darkly funny odyssey through the Irish countryside.
The people he interacts with are vivid and authentic. McPherson’s text has an understated poetry. This is a delicate balancing act that manifests a narrator who is simultaneously dangerous, crass, good natured and thoughtful. The delivery feels spontaneous and conversational, but the language sporadically pops in a resonant descriptions.
After a fast-paced, whirlwind night, there is a brief respite where he glimpses the calm, proper domestic life he yearns for. Kids playing in the sunlight. A little girl’s hands on his face. A hearty, affectionate woman near him. The moment is shattered, though, and his hard life catches up with him—the only one he believes he deserves.
Rod Ceballos’ direction is restrained and purposeful. Mackett occupies three locations in the bar and stays put at each for long stretches. There is no extraneous movement. The space is well used, but never exploited for distracting business.
On a stool at the end of the bar, I found myself essentially face to face with him during the finale—a mournful, reflective passage. It was intense and an emotionally thrilling capper to a compelling performance. The Good Thief is a low-key, finely-tuned stunner.