The Art Of War
According to Andy Warhol, ‘art is whatever you can get away with.’ On the evidence of the painting recently bought by Serge, Warhol might well be right. White stripes painted against a white background on a white canvas, it’s not only obscene to call it art, at two hundred thousand pounds it’s obscenely priced. Yet isn’t that what makes it art? Its price on the art market? Or is it just that a pretentious Serge knows the price of everything and the value of nothing? In the multi-award winning “Art” by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton, art and friendship collide when three friends discover they can’t even agree to disagree when it comes to art. Thoughtful, touching, and laugh out loud hilarious, the issues “Art” raised over twenty years ago when first produced are just as pertinent today, brought to life in a modern revival as fresh as it is fun.
In “Art,” lifelong friends Serge, Marc, and Yvan find their friendship tested when Serge purchases an expensive white painting by a popular artist. A painting whose obvious lack of aesthetic merit horrifies Marc. Looking to enlist Yvan to support him in his war against Serge, things backfire for Marc when the highly insecure Yvan decides he likes the painting, yet doesn’t like the painting, both at the same time. He may not know what deconstruction means but Yvan knows what he hates, and he doesn’t hate this. Or is it that the down to earth Yvan, recently employed as a stationary salesman by his fiancé’s uncle, has always been too eager to please everyone in his life, even when he can’t possibly please everyone all at once? Deciding to meet for a decisive dinner, all three men find their disagreement on art conceals even deeper pains and truths. Yet when the night is over, will all three still remain friends, or will they each have gone their separate ways?
From Seneca, to psychology, to homeopathy, Reza’s extraordinarily clever script sees its characters seeking out ways of living honestly and authentically, and of appreciating art created in the same vein. Contrasting notions of fine art and classicism against those of a problematic avant-garde, “Art” makes its position plain when it comes to a choice between art and people. Yet Hampton’s fine translation is only ever as fine as its cast which, in this instance, some minor projection issues aside, are irresistibly charming and hilarious. Nigel Havers as the modern minded Serge, Denis Lawson as the apoplectic Marc, and Stephen Tompkinson as the eternally stressed Yvan, are a sheer delight, each showing exquisite comic timing, with Tompkinson’s magnificent monologue being a hands down treat.
Clever, insightful, and overflowing with laughter, with three outstanding performers and one of the most hilarious skiers ever to grace a stage, “Art” delivers comedy in the tradition of Noel Coward. Sophisticated, cultured, well-mannered and badly behaved, “Art’s” terrific trio endlessly delight in this wonderfully charming, warmly hilarious production.
“Art” by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton, produced by David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers, runs at The Gaiety Theatre until March 24th
For more information, visit The Gaiety Theatre.