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Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton Old Vic The Lowry 26 March 2018 to 31 March 2018

Nigel Havers, Denis Lawson and Stephen Tompkinson in Art. Pic: Jon Swannell

Twenty years ago Art became something of a phenomenon, winning awards around the world, running for year after year in the West End, touring for virtually ever, and featuring - during its various incarnations - such stellar actors as Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay, Alan Alda, Rufus Sewell and so on.

Back now, with Nigel Havers, Denis Lawson and Stephen Tompkinson, giving performances that were probably never bettered by any of their predecessors, Art is here for new generations to enjoy and argue over.

We catch up with three middle-aged friends just after wealthy, divorced, dermatologist Serge (Havers) has spent £200,000 on a painting. Not any old canvas, but one that is featureless white as snow.

Marc (Lawson), an engineer, practical and rational, has opinions on the canvas that are unprintable and Yvan (Tompkinson), a not entirely successful salesman, about to get married rather late in life, and full of problems, are both worried that Serge may have gone just slightly batty.

As the script unfolds, Yvan is seen walking a tightrope between the other two when each tries to draw him to their side in a series of discussions and encounters.

It’s all presented in an interval-less 80 or so minutes on a tastefully pared-back contemporary space of soaring off-white walls, with snappy blackouts between scenes (a current favourite with directors and something Art needs credit for pioneering) and is very cleverly written, very witty and often laugh-out-loud funny.

Is it a commentary on contemporary art? Is it about relationships? Is it about middle class foibles? Yes, it is.

But it’s also about an interesting specific 25-year friendship being tested to destruction and also, very much not least, about three consummate performers grabbing a golden opportunity to present a masterclass in bling acting. Enjoy.


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