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Review: ‘Art’ at The Yvonne Arnaud, Guildford

Art is French play by Yasmina Reza which premiered in Paris in 1994. The UK rights were acquired by Sean Connery who commissioned Christopher Hampton to do an English translation and it arrived in the West End in 1996 with Sir Tom Courtenay, Ken Stott and the late Albert Finney. It ran in London for over seven years and toured the UK four times soon thereafter, with a list of illustrious actors.

Now back on tour, it arrived last night at the Yvonne Arnaud with great gusto. A great cast sees the dashing Nigel Havers (as Serge) team up with Denis Lawson (Marc) and Stephen Tompkinson (Yvan) as the three long-time friends who collide over the purchase by Serge of an expensive piece of modern art, a large white canvas, of which he is incredibly proud.

Marc decries the painting as a ‘piece of white shit’, because Marc knows best, while Yvan, ever the emotional peacemaker, tries to see both sides, in the midst of being wrapped up with the vacillations of his impending wedding and a new job ‘selling toner cartridges’. The friendship is thus sorely tested during the course of 80 minutes in this beautifully staged one-act production.

All three actors are faultless, their timing and delivery is perfect. Stephen Tompkinson especially so when delivering a long and scene-stealing monologue about the hideous politics of names on a wedding invite, which has the audience in stitches of well-deserved laughter. In fact, you don’t really stop laughing, this being one of the funniest productions I have seen in a long time.

At its heart this is an intelligent play about relationships; what brought these friends together and what keeps them together. Emotions run high on all sides. The whole play rolls along at a great pace, captivating the audience from start to finish. Take three actors on top form, a terrific and wonderfully amusing script and you really do get a marvellously entertaining tour de force. I loved it. Stefan Reynolds

Art is sold out at The Yvonne Arnaud but please call the Box Office on 01483 440000 for returns. Visit www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk for more information on their future productions.

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