Writer: Yasmina Reza
Translator: Christopher Hampton
Director: Ellie Jones
Original Director: Matthew Warchus
Reviewer: Dawn Smallwood
ART, a French play and an Old Vic Production, made its West End debut in 1996 winning numerous awards. The comedy is currently touring the UK, including a run at the Leeds Grand Theatre where it plays until 7 April. ART is solely not a play on art but also explores friendships of three men.
The three men, Serge (Nigel Havers), Marc (Denis Lawson) and Yvan (Stephen Tompkinson) have been friends for a very long time. Serge buys a very expensive piece of contemporary art for £200,000; a blank white canvas, and yet he is immensely proud of it. Marc, however, disapproves of it and questions both Serge’s taste of art or his sanity. From that point forward, their friendship becomes strained and very different personalities contentiously stand out all the more. Not only are their opinions of art constantly argued, but it gets very personal and both men are driven to bring out the worst in each other.
Their other friend, Yvan, is embroiled in his personal affairs, including his pending marriage to Catherine and job dissatisfaction at the stationery company. He looks to Serge and Marc for moral support, only to be caught in the disagreements between the two men. He is keen to make peace, but this does not go down well and becomes victim to their taunts and exposure of his shortcomings.
ART is performed by a three-man cast, including dialogues and monologues where the characters summarise their feelings with the audience. The white canvas is used as firing fuel for the three men to vent at each other’s faults and failures, resulting in their friendship being tested to the limit. The comedy contains highly paced social satire and irony, which is received with hilarity and laughter from beginning to end. It is interesting to see how subjective anything can be not solely with just the taste of art.
The stellar cast of Havers, Lawson and Tompkinson, successful television actors, are the true artists of their profession. From beginning to end they ooze quality as performers, who successfully portray the characters with their differing and complex personalities. The stand out performance must be from Tompkinson, who wholeheartedly draws out Yvan’s desperation to what he has to face with the wedding preparations and his ongoing family crisis. This receives a well-deserved round of applause.
Mark Thompson’s staging is simplistic, but effective, with white obviously chosen as the main colour theme. It physically and metaphorically links to the play’s subject and Hugh Vanstone’s lighting reflects the shades, which again links and the end is colourful.
This comedy offers a guarantee of laughter and the intuitive observation of people that Reza as a playwright is known for with her work shines. The comedy is an excellent work of ART.
Touring nationwide | Image: Contributed