Review - Art at Royal & Derngate, Northampton
I have to admit that in my ignorance, I wasn't really aware of the play ART before it was announced going out on tour earlier this year.
And even the information we as journalists got sent about the play didn't really add a huge amount apart from that it was three characters, one of whom has bought a painting which causes ructions.
But for anyone watching there is far much more to this play than just a discussion about the pros and cons of modern art.
Serge has bought a white painting for £200,000. A lot of money and his friend Marc is concerned at his extravagance. Meanwhile the amiable Yvan (pronounced Ivan) is caught in the middle seeing their friendship and his life around him deteriorate.
This is basically an examination of the friendship that men have. The issues that friends have, as they repress things, leave things unsaid and left. I suspect that a lot of men would have found similar conflicts that they have had with people and things have been left unmentioned. Even at the end of the show when the final act of the piece is revealed (which I shall not spoil) and gives plenty of gasps for the audience, the three of them all seem to forget about it with the idea that they will go out to eat. Very typical of a lot of men, although I suggest that the pub would probably be a more suitable ground for a ceasefire.
However what is very clever about this piece is that the tiniest part of a word is seized upon and then goes off to another argument that you sense has been bubbling under the surface for sometime.
It is kudos to the three actors, particularly impressive is Stephen Tompkinson's monologue about the issue of wedding invitations about a third of the way for the show where he talks for minutes seemingly without drawing breath was worthy of the applause for both its truth, pathos and comic timing. Your eye is very subtly and inexplicably drawn to him throughout the piece with some subtle gestures.
Nigel Havers dances rather neatly between being as conceited as the character could be and presents him with plenty of dignity to make him likeable. Denis Lawson is also equally good in the role of Marc as a contrarian, again having plenty to say as a counter point to Havers' Serge.
The play has plenty of laughs but the ending probably deserves the biggest laugh. The show builds throughout the relatively short running time of 80 minutes to an excellent climax.
It's the perfect length and any longer would make it feel padded, it's a sharply written piece of comedy and one that deserves as wider audience as possible.
ART can be seen at Northampton's Royal & Derngate until Saturday May 19. Tickets for the show can be booked by visiting www.royalandderngate.co.uk.