Art By Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton Serge has bought a modern painting for a huge sum of money. His best friends, Marc and Yvan are divided in their opinion. Marc hates it and thinks it’s a complete waste of money. Yvan attempts, unsuccessfully, to placate both sides. If your friendship is based on tacit mutual agreement what happens when one person does something completely different and unexpected?
The question is: Are you who you think you are or are you who your friends think you are? Art sees the return to Harlow Playhouse of the talented Global Productions, whose previous productions include Pygmalion, Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime (both of which were enormous hits at the world famous Minack Theatre in Cornwall), An Inspector Calls, and the award-winning Educating Rita.
Yvan – Dave Millard
Serge – Keith Cummings
Marc – Richard Hollis
Review at Harlow Playhouse By Chris Moss (Harlow Star)
Provoking thought on art of friendships
Art is a tragicomic social drama which has Almost become a self-sustaining industry, achieving astonishing international success yet remaining as frustratingly divisive among critics as its subject matter.
At its heart ia a brilliantly simple concept about art and friendship, with three close friends forced to reassess their relationships after squabbling over the artistic worth of a modernist painting.
The purchaser of said painting, self-confessed modernist Serge (played with great assurance by Keith Cummings), has paid a small fortune for the piece – a large white canvas with several, well, white diagonal lines-and sees it as money well spent. But his friend Marc (the ever brilliant Richard Holliss) disagrees, unceremoniously rubbishing the work and taking a perverse pleasure in ribbing his old chum while extolling the superior virtues of classicism.
Completing the triumvirate is Yvan ( a show-stealing performance from David Millard), Whose attitude towards the piece is ambivalent at best -besides, he has far greater concerns with a wedding looming and a disgruntled mother to appease.
Some see Yasmina Reza’s play as a debate on aesthetics, other on the place of art in society, while many will view it as a very human drama with art merely the catalsyt for self-scrutiny.
Ultimately, it doesn’t have much to do with art at all – It may appear to be the play’s subject, but it’s treated just as that, a topic of conversation inviting differing opinions and interchangeable with race, religion, politics and even football. What the plays does, like the painting, is to provoke – a reaction, a conversation, an argument – and in this it exceeds its humble premise spectacularly, beautifully illustrating the complexities of friendship and the bizarre power struggles of give and take in which we all participate every day.
In less capable hands, it could have descended into and ugly slanging match, but director Michael Phillips ably steered the production into calmer waters of comedy drama without sacrificing pathos.