Art Heist is a crafty exploration into the nature of and what constitutes art. Jack Bradfield’s play is masterfully brought to life by the talented players Alice Boyd, Serena Yagoub, Will Spence, and Rosa Garland, who flourish on stage as parodies of various art theft criminals.
What is striking about this production is the flow from fluid stylised movement into casual and naturalistic fourth wall breaking. Boyd in particular does this with panache, and is able to bridge the gap between the two as a semi-narrator with adept ability. We are introduced to three characters with cliched intentions, each played with gusto, for stealing the artwork, which is a frame encircling a blank space. This seemingly bizarre statement is part of a wider commentary on what forms art that occurs during the play. If a shoe is placed on a white plinth with a placard describing it, does that make it art?
This is what Art Heist does so skilfully. It takes these high-flung conceptual ideas and hides them within the pacy dialogue, meaning at no point is the audience lectured regarding them. Towards the end of the play, the audience itself is immersed in a world of meta-theatrics and meta-art; the watchers becoming the artwork. The blending of the safe space of the audience and the danger of the stage is what Poltergeist Theatre do best in Art Heist, never allowing the audience to feel the sense of ease that comes with detachment.
The set - comprised of two plinths, a couple of cameras, and a desk where the VFX is ostensibly operated - supports this blending. These are all accompanied by an individual placard a la art gallery, far too small for an audience to read at a distance, yet meticulously detailed nonetheless. Bradfield’s Art Heist is able to use a fine brush as well as a broad one in painting the canvas of its theatrical world. Such immersion leaves the audience, at the final curtain, questioning where the play and the art ends and the real world begins.