James Freedman: Man of Steal (Menier Chocolate Factory)

The pickpocket entertainer impresses with his skills

James Freedman: Man of Steal
James Freedman: Man of Steal
© Nobby Clark
I'm a sucker for magic; be it close-up, card tricks, escapology or sleight of hand, if it's done well there's little better. So I jumped at the chance to see one of the world's best pickpocket entertainers, James Freedman, in his one-man show Man of Steal at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

And it's no surprise that Freedman has his hands insured for £1 million – if he wasn’t an "honest pickpocket" he’d surely be rolling in stolen money.

Teaching us the "art of the steal", from Victorian pickpocketing to waiters in the ‘80s skimming credit cards to modern day ATM fraud, Freedman has a subtle charm combined with second-to-none skills, and a showmanship that draws you into his patter.

Music from Elliot Davis and Peter Weitz adds to the atmosphere, and Freedman is neatly directed by Edward Hilsum, slotting in nicely to Michael Urie’s (who made a guest appearance on stage) Buyer & Cellar set.

'Be prepared for audience interaction'

A humanising childhood story giving the reasons behind his interests (in case you thought the show was called Man of Steel and he really was Superman) is a touching moment.

There is a slightly strange balletic number with Fred – a mannequin that Freedman uses to practice his pickpocketing – which doesn’t work quite as well as the rest of the show, but that’s a slight niggle.

Running for 75 minutes with no interval, Man of Steal is the perfect length to keep you engaged throughout, particularly with the coup de theatre at the end.

Be prepared for audience interaction; not even sitting in the middle at the back will keep you safe. Freedman interacts well with everyone he brings onstage, drawing laughs at every opportunity, with lightning-quick quips and nimble fingers galore.

He’s really not joking when he tells us at the beginning that he’s stolen the most important thing from someone in the room, but it would be unfair to spoil the surprise.

With several top tips of how to keep yourself safe from fraudsters, Freedman delivers an entertaining, informative and slightly disconcerting show that will ensure I'll never keep anything in my back pocket again.

James Freedman: Man of Steal runs at the Menier Chocolate Factory until 27 April 2015