Small time criminals, Steph (“it’s not a girls name . . . “) and Barry (“I’d rather not get involved in the world of biscuits . . .”) attempt to execute the perfect crime. Unfortunately this job has disaster written all over it. Beset with birds, blokes with dogs and Asda’s home delivery service, things don’t exactly go to plan. Will the pair mastermind a cunning plot to resolve their financial woes, will they find the right coffin, will they work out what haslet is?
In effecting their burglary, thieves Steph and Barry are more Fawlty Towers than Most Wanted in this comical caper. Steph and Barry’s scheme is clearly hare-brained, and despite Matt Lanigan’s (Porridge) empathic insistence he has planned the grab with military precision, it is clear that neither character has entirely thought events through.
David Crowley (Coronation Street 1977) plays Barry with affable daftness as he bumbles his way through the job and clearly has chemistry with Lanigan. Both actors are at their strongest when engaging in the physical comedy the script requires of them. Lanigan in particular gets a chance to spiral out of control as his military precision utterly falls apart.
Oldham based writer Mark Whiteley has crafted a play stuffed with one-liners and witty asides. From a very bizarre game of charades based around films to attempts to revive a budgie there is some slapstick action and the occasional funny joke to be had. It also attempts to say something profound with the storyline branching off to talk about Steph’s absent father – but the light comic tone of the piece just doesn’t support this development.
Ian Curley’s direction keeps things light and relaxed in tone despite the potential of the black subject matter. Indeed this dichotomy of light tone and dark subject matter is an inherent problem with Thick as Thieves as it doesn’t live up to the dark comedic potential that it feels like it wants to take. It becomes very easy to forget you’re watching two burglars (who end up being strangely likeable) making themselves comfortable in someone else’s home as an ever increasing array of possessions comes out of the backstage Aladdin’s cave.
Fortunately, Crowley and Lanigan’s relationship and acting ability keep Thick as Thieves‘ head above water. A sharp polish ought to bring out the best in the script. Whilst there were several belly laughs from the watching audience, the inconsistent plot sadly left me feeling that Thick as Thieves could have delivered something more than just a laugh.
The Fiction Stroker gives Thick as Thieves three stars out of five:
Thick as Thieves continues at The Kings Arms until Saturday 23 March nightly at 7.30pm with a matinee on Saturday at 2.30pm. Tickets avaliable via the website, or at the bar.