Over the past couple of weeks at least half of our office have been to see Art, the play currently running at The Old Vic. Starring Rufus Sewell (Serge), Tim Key (Yvan) and Paul Ritter (Marc) and directed by Matthew Warchus – this is the 20th anniversary of Yazmina Reza’s hit play, for which she won an Olivier in 1998. Christopher Hampton’s translation is intelligent and astute. Art is 90 minutes (without interval) of relentless energy exploring friendship, prejudice and hypocrisy.
The play starts with Serge proudly showing off a newly purchased ‘white’ canvas to which Marc reacts with horror that his friend has been so duped by ‘contemporary art’ which quickly morphs into condescension. Yvan plays the peace-making part desperately trying to reconcile the two friends while battling with his own wedding planning dilemmas – his monologue on the dramas of the wedding invitation is hysterical! As it plays out, the friends turn on each other, with each character breaking from dialogue to explain to the audience exactly what they really think as it builds to a crescendo. The painting becomes secondary to the characters airing all their faults, prejudices and opinions on each other in a very excessive and damning light. The simple set enables the focus to be solely on the actors and their undeniable chemistry.
It is in equal parts hilarious and upsetting, perhaps because it is impossible not to see heightened versions your own friendships reflected in their petty but vicious arguments. It runs until the 18th February and we cannot recommend it highly enough!