Respectable Thief is bombastic. We hear performer, Nástio Mosquito, before we see him, with a belligerent, Yes, Jesus Loves Me. He’s tucked behind a projection screen, his body held loose by a light so that his shadow plays high and diffused on the wall.
It’s an ill-defined shape, yet later he’ll be caught by another spotlight in front of the screen and his shadow will be sharp and crisp. There’s progression here, and as the show inexorably moves towards its empty stage finale, we understand more that this progression of Nástio’s is a search for himself.
When he does emerge, slithering out under the projection, it’s wearing a boiler suit that is not out of place considering the physical effort involved in everything that comes next.
The music was a delight – reminiscent of The Leon Suites or at the very least what Brian Eno might conjure in a fever dream. These were compelling sonics that mostly worked with the visuals being presented such as a juxtaposition of modern life versus nature, leisure and freedom versus captivity, then a cut to multiple Nástios projected and delivering conversational poems.
Relying mostly on these contrasts to engage, Respectable Thief ultimately feels incomplete. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – a lack of coherence doesn’t mean a lack of quality or craft.
Later in the piece, it’s said, “You’re not a finished person.” To be sure, it’s a statement true of all of us. In the context of the show, it would certainly explain why Nástio walked off stage at the end and never returned for a curtain call. To come out to bow is to frame the previous hour as a performance with a clear end, i.e. a work of fiction, when that work – fascinating, ambitious, and playful – is deeply personal.
Arts House – North Melbourne Town Hall, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Performance: Thursday 27 July 2017 – 8.00pm
Season: 27 – 29 July 2017
Image: Nástio Mosquito in Respectable Thief – photo by Julieta Cervantes
Review: David Collins