'Art' by Yasmina Reza translated by Christopher HamptonMarch 2012
Directed by: Richard Parish
Design by: David Hemsley-Brown
Lighting by: Nigel Greenaway
Sound by: Alex Lyon
Cast: David Hemsley-Brown, Nick Lund and David Webb,
For a direct link to the GALLERY of PHOTOGRAPHS of this production CLICK - : Art
Serge has bought a modern painting for a huge sum of money. Marc hates it and cannot believe that a friend of his could possibly want such a work. 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?
This production was presented at Cranleigh Arts Centre and Westminster School, London
The Cast of 'Art', David Hemsley-Brown (Serge), David Webb (Marc) and Nick Lund (Yvan)
REVIEW OF 'ART' BY JEFF THOMSON
“My friend Serge has bought a painting ….” and so begins ‘Art,’ Yasmina Reza’s play that has become a modern classic. The script premiered in 1994 and has consistently attracted leading actors and enthusiastic audiences since then: both seem keen to explore the insecurities of friendship, the vagaries of values and the aesthetics of art itself. The play is formatted as a one-act for a cast of three and runs for about 85 minutes; the style shifts between monologue, duologue and at points of passionate altercation, between all three.>br The plot is simplicity itself: Serge (David Hemsley-Brown) has bought an expensive and completely white painting: Marc (David Webb) - his long time friend – scorns the stupidity of such a purchase; and the third friend, Yvan (Nick Lund), is caught in a crossfire of justification, envy and contempt. Director, Richard Parish, for the ‘Lighted Fools’ theatre company, honed the passion between the three protagonists to perfection; the cast, in turn, gave performances that swung rapidly between hurt, rage and vacillation. David Hemsley-Brown offered a strong interpretation of Serge, initially vulnerable and aesthete but revving-up the intensity to counter Marc’s onslaught about his ‘piece of white rubbish!’ His was a performance that intelligently rooted the production as the emotions on stage threatened to get out of control. David Webb, a stalwart of the ‘Lighted Fools’ company, timed Marc’s corrosive comments for maximum effect. He emphasised an element sometimes underplayed – Marc’s opinionated tirades do not originate from ‘a deep artistic sensibility’ but from long suppressed jealousies. As the hapless Yvan, Nick Lund known to audiences over a wide area, brought both contrast and colour to ‘the white debate’ – he was assertive, fearful and confused in equal measure and his monologue of twisting frustration – a central feature of the play – justifiably brought spontaneous applause. At the conclusion three white flags and a truce are apparent but whether the friendships continue in quite the same vein is left for the audience to deduce. John Tytherleigh effortlessly stage-managed and provided a suitably white painting! Nigel Greenaway (lighting) and Alex Lyon (sound) added technical expertise. he capacity audience I joined at the Cranleigh Arts Centre cheered and applauded – clearly another success for the ‘Lighted Fools,’ an award winning company, based in and around the Guildford area.
'Sardines' Magazine REVIEW OF 'ART' BY PAUL JOHNSON
Yasmina Reza’s multi-award-winning “Art” (which is meant to be written with quote marks), is one of the iconic productions of modern-day theatre and its acclaimed worldwide success can arguably be put down to factors on both sides of the curtain. “Art” is without doubt a real actors’ piece (as well as a piece for real actors). This is an argument quickly proved by looking back at the impressive list of top-flight performers who all queued to be part of the play’s West End run (1996-2003). It’s testament to Reza’s brilliant and witty text that a myriad of comedians and celebrities have been able to successfully perform alongside some of theatre’s greatest actors to realise the captivating relationships embodied her play’s French trio. I’m certainly not about to list them all, suffice to say that some of the cast enjoyed themselves so much they later returned for a second run taking on one of the other roles - such as Richard Griffiths, Jack Dee and Roger Allam. Unlike plays such as The Pitmen Painters, “Art” isn’t really about Art at all. Reza merely uses the contentious subject as a catalyst to bring out the contrasting personalities from the group of chums. She wonderfully manages to display how these personalities react to their counterparts’ thoughts, opinions and emotions. For the audience, the joy of this play is not only in recognising and identifying these personality traits (in both ourselves and our friends) but to revel in the way the onstage cast spar with each other dissecting their friendships. It’s sad how the play doesn’t consistently attract the sell-out audiences that it really should on the amateur circuit. A good production by an amateur society is a fitting advert to the strength of its acting membership but (and this is after being in the production myself and seeing several other amateur shows) I fear the ‘heavy’ title may tend to put much of the mainstream audience off possibly perceiving the production to be a bit too ‘high-brow’ compared to last month’s farce. This is a great shame as all theatre should be seen as an adventure whether or not you know anything about the evening ahead or not. Frost/Nixon is another example of how a production could be perceived to be a little on the tedious side – but what a gripping piece of theatre that is! The three characters at the heart of “Art” are Serge, Marc and Yvan. Serge has recently bought a painting by a ‘fashionable’ artist for 200,000 Francs. However, to the untrained eye the painting seems to simply be – more or less – a plain white canvas. When Marc sees the painting he openly ridicules Serge for paying so much money for the ‘pile of shit’ and is subsequently bewildered how little he apparently knows about his so-called best friend in order for him to be able to do such an thing. Yvan, the third friend, is something of an odd-one-out and, it seems, not on the same intellectual plain as his friends. He is constantly in therapy and possesses very little opinion about pretty much anything. Yvan’s non-confrontational character means he is happy to side with anyone as long as everyone gets on. The fact that he is also getting married to his domineering fiancée in a fortnight also means his stress levels are close to boiling point. The Lighted Fools Theatre Company from West Sussex (currently celebrating its 10th anniversary) obviously prides itself on providing audiences with high-quality theatre… and March’s production, “Art”, was no exception. Wonderfully-cast and with extremely well-thought-out direction – including a nightly after-show discussion with director and cast – the society clearly demonstrated its passion for this piece of theatre. You can’t take this play on without an intelligent cast possessing not only a full understanding of how to play each of the three protagonists but also how to play them off against each other. David Hemsley-Brown brought a nice level of sophistication to the role of Serge and was totally believable in the Frenchman’s commitment and confidence in the purchase of his new painting. His friendship with Marc although tense for most of the play was obvious. The only niggle I had was his formal suit worn throughout; perhaps a more creative, stylish and self-assured casual look would have worked better in the domestic settings of the friends’ apartments. As Marc, David Webb brought the loudest personality to the stage and caught the cynic’s mix of sarcasm and bullying to perfection. I absolutely loved this performance from an actor that was carrying on in the play’s tradition of thoroughly enjoying his role. Although I found myself not really warming to Marc’s abrupt and confrontational nature, I also found myself secretly agreeing with much of what he said – prompting me to wonder whether this is the character closest to myself??!! The role of Yvan is a very tricky one to get right. Even though he comes across as very non-committal, the groom-to-be has quite a few layers to unpack. Nick Lund played the part with great understanding and, quite rightly, had the audience empathising with him. Yvan’s famous 3-page speech in the latter half of the play was well-delivered by Lund although the usual spontaneous applause upon completion was a little forced after several seconds of quiet from the audience – which suggested that maybe even more energy, pace and sheer frantic exasperation was possibly called for. Richard Parish’s direction was subtle but full of experience - appearing to actually let his actors act, which is to be commended. Although the use of space was excellent throughout the entire production, for me, it would have been nice to see more distinction between the three friends’ flats – apart from the hanging of different paintings on the rear wall. This needn’t have been a big furniture upheaval; a change in the lighting design could have achieved so much. Having said that the use of spotlights for the aside monologues was lovely. The modern and minimalistic set worked very well, including specially designed and constructed chairs by the aforementioned David Hemsley-Brown. One last niggle was of the painting itself, which rears its ‘white’ head from time to time, including the end of the play when Marc desecrates the ‘work of art’ by drawing his downhill skier on it in felt-tip pen. I think the creative powers-that-be might have over-thought what the canvas should look like, ending up with an actual painting thick with very distinguishable brush marks – much more than is inferred in the play. The painting isn’t the important issue and really needs to be as blank and plain as possible. However, this is only a small niggle in the grand scheme of things and didn’t really detract from the impact of the performance. This was an excellent and thoroughly entertaining production which makes me very keen to see the Lighted Fools’ ladies get their turn in the spotlight when the company produces Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads from 25th-28th July at The Riverhouse, Walton-on-Thames – also under the very capable direction of Richard Parish.
COMMENTS FROM OUR AUDIENCE ON 'ART'
Many congratulations on last night’s performance in Cranleigh. It was absolutely brilliant. How can these guys learn so many lines and all for just three nights! We really enjoyed it.
You have done it again, well done for another wonderful production.
Congratulations Lighted Fools! An excellent production, full of energy and pace. We enjoyed the evening enormously. Thank you.
We did enjoy it very much and are looking forward to future productions.
Vanita and I came to the performance of "Art" last night and we both really enjoyed it. I had deliberately not told her about the storyline and she was fully drawn into the characters. We both agreed that the time seemed too short when the play finished as it did not seem that you had been on stage for almost an hour and a half.
It was a fantastic evening and congratulations.
We ended the evening in a nearby restaurant discussing both the play and the changing flux of lifelong friendships.
Lacan and the postmodern predicament still looms large in France. Hugh has translated quite a bit of French philosophy from the period so the intellectualism of it all made complete sense to me,(although I think they do take offence quite as easily as we Brits). Lots to consider.
Thank you for giving us the chance to see such an interesting play.
One word: SUPERBE!!