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  • Chris O'Rourke

Slice, The Thief

John Cronin in Slice, The Thief. Image from live stream

A legend in his own mind, Slice is a bicycle thief great at what he does. Just ask him, he'll tell you. Less a hard man so much as a man hard done by by some real hard men, Slice talks himself up laughing at everyone elses madness and stupidity. Apart from his mates, Sean and Kieran, whose loyalty is without question. In Slice, The Thief, writer Lee Coffey's one man tale from 2016, we once again find ourselves traversing a world of normalised violence and nifty nicknames. One where a stolen bike takes us on a ride through the underbelly of Dublin. A place where travellers, drug dealers, brothel owners and a merciful angel see threats of violence unleashed like horror on a loop. If it all feels a little familiar, that's because it essentially is. Even so, a terrific performance by John Cronin, and some strong direction by Aaron Monaghan go a long way towards elevating Coffey's ambitious script into something memorable,

If Slice, The Thief highlights Coffey's impressive skills with words, the story of a man out of his criminal depth is not always worthy of that skill, despite a last second twist that leaves you smirking. Coffey's taut, snappy, energised writing, whose superb rhythmic and rhyming structures resemble an epic rap poem at times, sees the almost musical interplay of words, sounds and rhythms being crucial and mesmerising in themselves. Still, both tone and the tale being told, as well as Slice himself, feel lifted from a Guy Ritchie gangster movie. One in which the gore is cranked up. As a protagonist Slice's normalised racism and love of his own voice see him coming across like some loud mouth runt of the litter. Someone surrounded by events and people who are often far more dynamic, stronger and interesting than he is.

John Cronin in Slice, The Thief. Image from live stream

As with most one person performances, the worse often amount to little more than bad character studies while the best border on interpersonal encounters. Cronin's Slice falls somewhere in between, having enough meat on the bone to amount to a significant character study, even though he's someone we don't really encounter. Primarily due to Aaron Monaghan's brave and unsettling direction. Ensuring Cronin never plays to camera, a sense of listening in and looking on at someone speaking to somebody else makes eavesdroppers and voyeurs of us all. Instead, Cronin's Slice plays like someone talking loudly on the Luas, wanting you to overhear but not directly talking to you. Encounter further undermined by Cronin's emotional register never straying too far beyond the safely removed distance of story teller. Yet, in an odd way, it works. Helped by some well worked lights, along with a superbly effective and understated score by Derek Conaghy. Mostly though, it works because Cronin is mesmerising, making the small man talking a big game relatable and even likeable, and bringing the world and characters surrounding Slice vividly to life.

Like a joke best enjoyed had you been there, Slice thinks both himself and his story are far more interesting than either actually is. What's really interesting in Slice, The Thief, is the manner in which his story is told. Thankfully the unlucky loudmouth got lucky in having Coffey's words to tell it, Monaghan to direct it, and Cronin to bring it all together with a hugely engaging performance.

Slice, The Thief, by Lee Coffey is available online till 8:00 pm, Sunday, December 6 for ticket holders. It will run as part of Dublin Port Company's The Pumphouse Presents from December 19 to December 23. Available free of charge as a gift from Dublin Port, donations will be accepted towards a new artist development fund to be managed by Axis Ballymun.

For more on this and other upcoming shows, go to Axis Ballymun or Dublin Port Company.


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