Review: Art at Cambridge Arts Theatre, an elegant production of an ingenious play

PUBLISHED: 08:17 16 February 2018 | UPDATED: 10:59 16 February 2018

Stephen Tompkinson, Denis-Lawson, and Nigel-Havers star in the production. Picture: JON SWANNELL

Stephen Tompkinson, Denis-Lawson, and Nigel-Havers star in the production. Picture: JON SWANNELL

Archant

This is an elegant production of an elegant play. It’s very funny and it’s very French. At around 90 minutes with no interval, Art by Yasmina Reza has three actors on stage the whole time and it’s quick fire debate.

Even in English, translated by Christopher Hampton, it exudes the Gallic preoccupation with philosophy.

Serge (played masterfully by Nigel Havers) has spent £200,000 on a painting. It’s not exactly an old master. The canvas is completely white.

His friend Marc (an equally adroit Denis Lawson) is perplexed, indignant and absolutely outraged. He goes to tell their mutual pal, Yvan, thinking if Yvan is not similarly concerned, then he can have no feelings for Serge.

What emerges is a three-cornered verbal fight seemingly to the death of a 25-year-old friendship. It expands to include the derision of lifestyles, homes, female partners and general attitudes to the world. It’s a verbal swordfight that degenerates into punches.

Reza’s writing is as sharp as her name. The opening night at Cambridge Arts Theatre had the audience laughing throughout at both the lines and the actors’ demeanour. There is immaculate comic timing here.

When Stephen Tompkinson delivers a long, exasperated speech about his wedding preparations and how many step-parents’ names that his fiancée is insisting be on their wedding invitation, the audience roared and applauded.

At the end of the play, when Serge offers Marc a felt-tip to write over the white paint, the audience held its breath. By then, we believed it had cost two hundred grand. They had convinced us.

By the end of the show, there was an almost tangible warmth in the theatre after three remarkable performances which brought this debate amusingly to life.

It’s not about art. It’s about attitudes to life and how everything is a way of looking at things and whether friendships can overcome disagreements. Making the dialogue about a puzzling painting is inspired. The play is all dialogue with little action and requires masters of the craft. This production is a triumph.

Art is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, February 24.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Ely Standard visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Ely Standard staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Ely Standard account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More news stories

13 minutes ago

A man who died after being hit by a lorry near Little Downham while repairing a tractor on the roadside has been named as Alvis Smith from Wisbech.

Yesterday, 12:41

A man who pleaded guilty to drink driving with no insurance and using a fake licence has been given a two-year ban and fined £600.

Yesterday, 18:54

A classic car insurance company is urging people to stay on the look out for a stolen 50 year old red VW Beetle.

Yesterday, 15:14

A well-known Fenland company has been fined more than £500,000 after one of its drivers narrowly escaped serious injury when their tipper vehicle came into contact with overhead power lines.

Most read stories

Most commented stories

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Ely Standard e-edition E-edition
HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Newsletter Sign Up

Ely Standard weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy