Review: Art Heist

Very hard not to like, if a bit over-stuffed

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Art Heist
Published 07 Aug 2019

If Art Heist—Poltergeist Theatre’s follow up to last year’s playful Lights Over Tesco Car Park—were a painting, what would it be? Definitely not a Mondrian, for there is nothing minimalist or restrained about this multimedia, multi-perspective sorta crime caper. Ostensibly, it’s about art and how we create, narrate, label and value it. So maybe a Hirst? God, no: it’s much more fun than that. It’s obvious, really: who else could turn a chef's hat into art, or toy with our perspectives with such glee? It’s definitely a Neil Buchanan Art Attack.

If nothing else, I’m sure Neil did one with kitchen sinks, and that’s exactly what Alice Boyd, Rosa Garland, Will Spence, Serena Yagoub and writer/director Jack Bradfield have thrown at this. At times it risks falling off the wall under its own weight. A series of audience interactions, for instance, feel pointless and over-done in the moment but, actually, haven't acquired sufficient baggage to make them meaningful in the grand finale – however visually spectacular that may be. That's a tough one to resolve, but perhaps its ambition is its charm.

It also means it’s hard to describe – a comedy caper about an art heist gone wrong doesn’t come close. Easier to describe is the success with which they use different framing and narrative techniques—camerawork, voiceover, audience participation and, erm, actual frames—to studiously avoid the boring certainty of a single perspective. “How a frame would contain it!” laments Boyd’s philosophical security guard, taking the time to explore the world one particular painting only partially reveals. There is nothing contained here.