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Edinburgh Fringe 2019

Art Heist

Poltergeist / Untapped by Underbelly and New Diorama Theatre

Genre: Comedy, Theatre

Venue: Underbelly, Cowgate, Big Belly


Low Down

Three thieves plot to steal the same painting on the same night.  Who will succeed and how?


Reminiscent of the Oceans movies, there are three thieves who decide to try their hand at stealing a valuable painting from an art gallery.  Each has a unique set of skills and a strategy.  Each has a reason why they should be the victor.

The show opens with dramatic Bond-like music, followed by the MC introducing the three characters, all dressed in black.  There is the chef, who considers herself a master of disguise.  She describes how she fell in love with the painting.  Her strategy is to prepare food for the museum’s security guard as way into the facility.  Next there is Serena, who is a professional art thief.  She sees herself like Tom Cruise. This will be her best and last heist ever, as she wants a fresh start in life. The third character is an art-heist wannabe.  He longs for the glamour of the famous burglars. He wants his 15 minutes of fame. He will leave a calling card so that he is remembered.

The adventure begins. The MC plays the role of the museum security guard. She takes volunteers from the audience onto the stage to participate in the story.  They are each given specific actions to do to become part of the play. There are live-action cameras on stage that capture many of the movements of the actors.  Great sound effects enhance the staging.  The drama accelerates as the characters become more frantic in their pursuits.  Each one encounters obstacles that could potentially squash their mission.  The chef makes a sandwich that the security guard won’t like. The over-confident fame-seeker enters with the passcode that he obtained, only to find that it has been changed that day.  How they each manage the kinks in their plans keeps the story moving. The writing is quite clever.

Throughout the play we are challenged to think about the value of the art versus the risks that are taken to obtain it.  What is art? What makes a piece desirable? The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci hung in the Louvre as a regular piece in their collection until it was stolen in 1911 by an Italian handyman who had worked there. Then the painting became a media sensation and its value and fame increased exponentially.

This deep subject is handled in a comic way by the four talented actors.  The premise is original.  I found it was a bit too jumbled by the end with too much action on stage and not a clear conclusion to the story.  However, it was an entertaining production from a young cast with a lot of energy.