REVIEW: ART at Leeds Grand Theatre

Famous faces starred in Yasmina Reza’s Olivier, Tony and Moliere award-winning comedy ART, which aired at Leeds Grand Theatre last night.

ART the play revolved around a plain white painting in which Serge (Nigel Havers) had purchased for an extortionate amount of money. Was it a midlife crisis? Was it a con? Or did they just really love the painting? Regardless of the answer, the play used the artwork to observe the impact differing opinions had on the deteriorating relationship of a trio of friends.

ART - Stephen Tompkinson, Nigel Havers & Denis Lawson (2) credit Matt Crockett

With credit to director, Ellie Jones, the scenes were short and snappy, all offering different points of view on what constituted ‘art.’ Plus, the inclusion of dramatic techniques like freeze frames and monologues gave extra insight into their mindsets, adding that extra layer of depth to the performance and making the middle class characters seem human.

Exhibiting an all white set, Venetian blind shadow lighting and three chairs on the stage, it became clear early on that the play was also going to be minimalist and ironic. It was predominantly dialogue throughout, with the only action being a short lived stage fight. In saying that, it takes talent to be able to keep an audience entertained through words alone for 90 minutes straight, with no interval. The audience seemed to be hanging off every word, especially those said by Nigel Havers.

Stephen Tompkinson’s execution of Yvan, a peacemaker facing his own issues and trying to avoid conflict, was commendable. Both the facial expressions and tone of voice used by the actor projected the character’s inner turmoil. Unsurprisingly, this had the crowd either in stitches or clapping their hands together in a round of applause.

However, it was unrealistic that such well versed statements, rants and rebuttals could be fired back and forth without interruption, as did the fact that Yvan let himself be the punching bag during an argument that did not involve him directly.

Calling ART a comedy is a stretch in my eyes, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The play is about more than it seems; it’s a lesson that although you might be able to put a price on art, you can’t put one on friendship, and that’s something that should resonate with all.

ART is at Leeds Grand Theatre from Tuesday 3 to Saturday 7 April 2018.

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