Thursday, 4 June 2015

Entertainment review: James Freedman: Man of Steal

After a short, sold-out run at the Menier Chocolate Factory James Freedman: Man of Steal gets a transfer to Trafalgar Studio 1, where on tonight's evidence it's not playing to houses quite as full - but if the box office takings aren't what what was hoped for, I'm sure Freedman knows a way or two to get a bit more cash out of his audiences. Although by his own promise he'd have to give it all back, as he describes himself as an "honest thief." Fascinated by pickpockets from an early age he became a master of the craft, but although he keeps himself well-practiced on the dummy he brings on stage with him, he uses his abilities to advise the police, and pass on warnings to the public in an entertaining way, in shows like this one. And it's definitely fun to watch, although chances are it'll leave you not so much entertained in the long run as paranoid.

The show culminates in one audience member losing "the most valuable thing possible" and Freedman asks the audience not to reveal what this is, but if you've heard anything about the fast-growing crimes of recent years you should be able to hazard a good guess what gets stolen.

With the help of various "volunteers" (they don't get much choice in the matter) from all around the audience (for once I avoided getting called up on stage) Freedman demonstrates some of the classic pickpocketing techniques, and the ways they've been adapted over the years. As anyone who noticed that Chip & PIN made fraud the victim's responsibility rather than the bank's will have noticed, technological advances have for the most part made credit card fraud easier, not harder.

These demonstrations are staged by director Edward Hilsum is a way that's reminiscent of a magician's act, so it's easy to feel like that's what you're watching, rather than a display of something that can and does happen on the streets daily. More frightening is the big finale, and if nothing else I left glad that I shield my PIN so carefully I have to find the numbers on the pad by feel.

James Freedman: Man of Steal is booking until the 4th of July at Trafalgar Studio 1.

Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes.

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