Art: new touring adaptation of the French play is sparky and chucklesome (4 stars)


credit. Matt Crockett

Friendship and taste are put under the microscope in fantastic comedy

Few things divide opinion like modern art. But never mind the Jackson Pollock, it's minimalism that proves a tricky beast in Yasmina Reza's sparky comedy.

Self-proclaimed arbiter of exquisite taste Serge (Nigel Havers) has just paid an absurd amount of money for a white on white canvas painting by a fashionable artist. His pompous friend Marc (Denis Lawson) is apoplectic, and soon it becomes apparent that their friendship is as flimsy as an artistic affectation, mutating into a psychological battle.

It's up to hapless third wheel and mutual friend Yvan (Stephen Tompkinson) to referee, but he's more preoccupied with impending nuptials to a woman he's seemingly been landed with.

The trio are superb from the outset with effortless chemistry through Ellie Jones' direction. Shifts in power are denoted by Mark Thompson's witty bursts of primary colour, straight out of a school paintbox, as the bickering becomes increasingly petty.

It's Tompkinson who's a real revelation here though, careening chaotically between wide-eyed caroonish numpty and sympathetic wise underdog. His relaying of a convoluted argument between the new in-laws is delivered in a stunning rapid-fire monologue of roughly three minutes, with barely a pause for breath.

There are a few broad daubings, particularly towards the denouement, but in the main, it's a detailed portrait of masculinity and privilege with real finesse.


  • Directed by: Matthew Warchus
  • Written by: Yasmina Reza

One of the most acclaimed plays of recent times, Art premiered in London twenty years ago and went on to become a phenomenon, winning the Moliere, Evening Standard, Olivier and Tony Awards. Based on the original production by Matthew Warchus and directed by Ellie Jones.

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