Art theft has long had a glamorous allure. Think of Vincenzo Peruggia making off with the Mona Lisa in 1911, or the still unsolved Isabella Stewart Gardner robbery in Boston, or even the two Thomas Crown Affair films.
It’s that hushed world of sophistication, danger and daring that Poltergeist Theatre, the Oxford-hailing troupe that turned heads last year with Lights Over Tesco Car Park, look to explode with its experimental new caper Art Heist.
With the familiar but refreshing cocktail of elusive thoughtfulness and anarchic fun, Poltergeist stages its own heist: three thieves, with different motives and different backgrounds, attempt to steal the same painting on the same night, and all hell breaks loose. A lonely security guard keeps watch, incompetently.
It’s an entertaining hour, full of theatrical playfulness – audience members are hauled on stage to act as CCTV cameras, there’s liberal use of live video, and Alice Boyd narrates the whole thing from a desk at the back of a stage – and subtle, subversive humour.
But, frustratingly, there’s not enough actual meaning or thought – about art, its value and its meaning – to sustain things. Style takes precedence over substance. Artifice over art.