Three thieves break into the same gallery on the same night. They’re all intent on stealing the same extremely valuable painting. They’re bound to meet and it’s bound to get messy. An existential comedy caper which asks the big questions. What is art? Why is it extremely valuable? And, how much can I get for this on eBay? Art Heist is in Edinburgh for August so The Fountain caught up with the team behind the performance to tell us more.
TF: You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, how exciting?
I’m so glad we’re back. The Fringe is amazing because there’s so much art in one place: theatre, comedy, dance and all that’s strange and wonderful in between. In the past we’ve had the chance to meet the most talented artists up here. You see amazing work, and then get talk to the people who made it immediately afterwards. There’s nowhere else quite like it.
Thanks to the Underbelly/New Diorama Untapped Award, we can take Art Heist up this year, and bring it to an international audience.
TF: Art Heist certainly sounds intriguing, what is the premise?
To set the scene: three thieves break into the same art gallery on the same night. None of them know the others are there. They are all after the same painting. It’s a fast-paced comedy caper bursting with chaotic energy. It’s packed with sneaking, grappling, hacking, laser dodging and disguises—everything you want out of a heist. Hopefully, it will take you to some unexpected places too.
TF: And what drove the project, where did your influences lie?
Much as we love heist movies, the starting point for us wasn’t cat burglars or the pretensions of the art world. It was the theory of behavioural of economics.
Behavioural economics is a field of study developed by two American-Israeli psychologists, Kahneman and Tversky, who in the 1970s got interested in how the human brain makes sense of the world. They argued that the world is totally chaotic, but the human brain is always searching for patterns that aren’t there.
So our show is ostensibly about an art heist, but it’s also a show about how the brain curates the world. It’s about how we tell stories about ourselves, and how we are constantly getting it wrong. Did you know the Mona Lisa wasn’t famous until it was stolen in 1911? What does that say about how we attribute value? Is a story about a work of art more valuable than the skill behind it?
TF: Have you been to the Fringe before, is there anything you are keen to see whilst in Edinburgh?
Last year we took up Lights Over Tesco Car Park. It was a devised docu-comedy about alien abductions and the search for truth in a truth-averse age. Our wonderful audiences helped us craft a new drama every night.
Needless to say, we know the Fringe well now, and we know that we’ve got to plan our schedule:
There’s so much to get excited about. We’ll be front row for Lewis Doherty’s Boar, an insane one-man Game of Thrones/Lord of the Rings adventure. We can’t wait for Marika McKennell’s E8, YESYESNONO’s The Accident Did Not Take Place, and New Diorama’s The Incident Room.
Of course then there’s our fellow Untapped Award-winning shows which are set to be amazing: Tokyo Rose is a musical about one of the most controversial trials in American history, and Conspiracy is a thriller about fake-news. What’s not to like?
TF: And what are your future plans beyond Art Heist?
We’ve been working on Art Heist for a year now. It’s the riskiest, most technically difficult thing we’ve made and we’ll be throwing everything behind it.
What’s next for Poltergeist? We’re going to keep telling stories we care about, and tackling styles we want to get to know better. Poltergeist’s mission is to make theatre that’s experimental and unashamedly entertaining at the same time. We’re constantly interrogating how we do that, and if we can do that in new ways. If you want to know what form that takes, you’ll have to wait to find out.
You can see Art Heist at Underbelly, Cowgate from 5th – 25th August at 13:55. For tickets, please visit www.edfringe.com