Pace is everything for the variation on one of those Socratic dialogues which is Yasmina Reza’s Art in the Christopher Hampton translation. If you’ve never seen it, then the plot concerns three Parisian men on the cusp of middle age.
They’ve been friends for many years, in spite of wildly differing lifestyles. Then one of them buys a staggeringly expensive piece of modern art – a white painting. It’s a bold choice of play to launch a seaside summer theatre season, but it works.
At first individually spot-lit and then congregated to see the picture, no-nonsense Marc, collector Serge and about-to-be married Yvan all react differently. Wisely, director Edward Max keeps the action moving fast, while allowing time individual performers to make their points– Patrick Marlowe’s tirade as he details the traumas behind wording the wedding invitations deserved its round of applause.
Serge is a typical gallery-haunter, with all the brittleness which goes with making judgements of taste. Harry Gostelow has the mannerisms to perfection, though we’re never allowed to forget that this is Paris, where taste in art and in fine dining are of near-equal importance, and Serge us by no means camp.
Clive Brill’s Marc is the man who de-constructs art and relationships with the same enthusiasm which one suspects he brings to business. By the way, don't be fooled into thinking that his final hommage to the picture is the end of the play. It's not, and I wouldn't like you to be caught out.