This is an Old Vic Production which is a hint that it will be well produced and well acted. And it certainly was. What a joy to watch and listen to three exceptional actors, Nigel Havers (Serge), Denis Lawson (Marc) and Stephen Tompkinson (Yvan).
We’re used to seeing these three on television and film, Havers from ‘Chariots of Fire’ to ‘Benidorm’, Lawson ‘Holby City’ to ‘Cold Feet’ and Tompkinson from ‘Father Ted’ to the recent ‘Eric, Ernie and Me’.
No microphones for these men who know how to project, whose stage craft is a joy, who had the audience in fits of laughter then reduced to tears.
It’s the story of the Emperors New Clothes, Serge is trilled with his latest acquisition a large canvass of a white image painted on a white background for which he paid 200,000 French francs. Now he considered himself a serious collector and as such invited his friends to come and view. Marc is outspoken, can’t believe his friend of 25 years would be so stupid, be taken in as he says with ‘this shit’. Yvan arrives late, he’s been trying to sort out his wedding and he’s in a state and Tompkinson has a rant that must last about seven minutes, rapid fire, every word distinct and he gets a deserved round of applause. He’s the buffoon of the bunch or so he thinks but he realises the tensions between his two friends who begin tearing themselves apart, one jealous of the other’s new found interest in art that is consuming his life to the exclusion of someone who depends on him, admires and loves him.
The production is excellent. The set in shades of magnolia, tall walls from floor to flies with a revolving panel with different paintings on each side denoting whose apartment we’re in. The lighting is perfection and the actors timing spot on. On occasions everything freezes and the light falls on one actor and he speaks to us, then just as instantly he back in the conversation with his friends.
There are two silences as the men sort out their emotions, once eating olives and dropping the stones into a silver bowl with a tinkling plop. The other is when they are concentrating on the painting, Serge has given Marc a blue marker pen and dares him to deface his precious painting. Marc turns his back and lifts his hand, we don’t see what he’s doing – if anything – and at the breath holding moment someone’s phone rings loudly in the audience. Talk about breaking the spell.
ART written Yasmina Reza is an opportunity to enjoy theatre at its best. More at www.goh.co.uk