The Old Market, 8 May 2023
Being spellbound is an absolute rarity for an entire hour. The magic that silent masked performer Ralf Wetzel with foley artist multi-instrumentalist Max Charue creates in The Heist absolutely spellbound, captivated and enchanted for every second of the show.
Weaving magic, Wetzel and Charue took what is widely perceived as a traditional performance form, using almost grotesque static masks with changes in physical movement and a sound landscape to demark each of the four characters, to tell a modern and familiar tale of the recent pandemic’s impact. The humour and pathos skips through the ribs and tickles straight at the heart, with the honest truth of a licked finger held to the wind seeking direction. It both made me grin with laughter, and feel my heart break at the single story within a larger tragedy.
There’s a couple of very deft and skilled hands at the tiller of The Heist, telling big truths with this small tale of few words, sitting comfortably within the respected trench set by the likes of Keaton and Chaplin. Non-verbal entertainment satirises at great volume, we are reminded.
Wetzel’s masks are artfully misshapen, distinct from afar and demanding of attention near to, paired with identifying character movements – instantly conveying the pre-pandemic joy and friendly nature of ‘Steve’ and buttoned-up opportunism of ‘Mr Bug’, alongside the pomposity of the policeman, and solemnity of the fourth. Each has his own bespoke soundtrack from Charue, and a litany of foley so tightly choreographed as to be balletic. There’s a push and pull for attention between the front of the storytelling with Wetzel’s physical mastery, and the back-end of the magic in Charue’s fine orchestration of each deliberate noise, from a breath-sound to a raucous cacophony.
The Heist is that rare bird of a show that flies both with its storytelling and its storytellers. More than a little bit special.