Art - Original West End Production
Previewed 4 October 1996, Opened 15 October 1996, Closed 13 October 2001 at the Wyndham's Theatre
Transferred 15 October 2001, Closed 4 January 2003 at the Whitehall Theatre
Three friends and a white painting... what happens between three friends when one of them buys a work of modern art?
Written by Yasmina Reza, English adaptation by Christopher Hampton. Directed by Matthew Warchus. The original cast featured Tom Courtenay, Ken Stott and Albert Finney
"Art is smart, sharp and wonderfully funny. It's genuinely touching too, and offers heartening proof that the West End hasn't quite become a no-go area for intelligent plays. Reza has hit on a brilliantly simple comic idea and exploits it fully. You might accuse this of being a one-joke play but the joke is so good it easily survives the 90-minute running time... Although the play raises questions about the value of modern art, and the white painting provides the butt for an endless stream of enjoyably philistine jokes, this is actually a comedy about friendship, the painting a catalyst in an almost scientific experiment in human relationships.... But, although Art may not quite be great art, there's no doubt that it is cracking entertainment." The Daily Telegraph
"Art is Euro-play, the toast of Paris, where it began, and running in many German and Italian theatres... Even in Christopher Hampton's lively translation it remains very French in its willingness to think about thinking and worry about the gap between what has been said and what is meant... Like the painting, Rexa's satirical fable encourages reactions without nailing its own colours to the mast. Overt themes include hetrosexual affection and the paradox that many long-time friends not only have little in common, but quite dislike each other... Matthew Warchus's direction points up every switch of mood and pace, Mark Thompson's luxury-minimalist set and Hugh Vanstone's lighting at once complement and comment on the piece." The Daily Mail
"At last that rare thing, a true adult comedy, with more than mere laughter on its mind, blooms in the West End wasteland. At first, Yasmina Reza's Art, which triumphed in Paris and Berlin, looks eager to make traditional fun of a man so keen to proclaim his love of daring abstract art that he buys a blank, white canvas for a fortune... But Miss Reza's interest lies not in the picture, but the dangerous antagonisms it sparks. Art is a French female's deliciously sharp imagining of how middle-class men relate to each other - or rather how they spectacularly fail to. This is no low shot aimed below the waist. Miss Reza views the male of the species more in amused resignation than feminist anger... An appealing comedy, whose surface charms conceal a dark and interesting interior." The London Evening Standard
"How pleasing it is to welcome a play about ideas into the West End. For Yasmina Reza's Art not only brings to the stage a topical debate, it amakes it invigorating, touching and finally disturbing. This dark comedy, translated from the French by Christopher Hampton in sparkling form, explores its themes through a rift between friends... Like the painting, the play is deceptive. Starting out as a comedy, raising easy laughs at the expense of abstract art, it gradually becomes darker and darker... Stealthily Reza shifts the ground until she is exploring the price, not of paintings, but of companionship, and the value of telling the truth" The Financial Times
Art in London at the Wyndham's Theatre previewed from 4 October 1996, opened on 15 October 1996 and closed on 13 October 2001, transferred to the Trafalgar Studios (Whitehall Theatre) on 15 October 2001 and closed on 4 January 2003
Art - 1st West End Revival
Previewed 10 December 2016, Opened 20 December 2016, Closed 18 February 2017 at the Old Vic Theatre in London
A major revival of Yasmina Reza's acclaimed play Art staged by the original creative team lead by the original director Matthew Warchus.
The cast features Tim Key as 'Yvan', Paul Ritter as 'Marc' and Rufus Sewell as 'Serge'. Directed by Matthew Warchus with designs by Mark Thompson, lighting by Hugh Vanstone, music by Gary Yershon and sound by Mic Pool.
When this production at the Old Vic Theatre in December 2016, Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph hailed how in this "delightful 20th anniversary revival... the piece still works like a charm, and you realise that nothing as pithily intelligent on these themes has come in the interim." Ann Treneman in the Times explained that, "this play, which is 90 minutes straight through ó a delightful length ó isn't about art as in the white square but the art of arguing (and the art of friendship). There are moments, particularly with words such as 'deconstructionism' on parade, when it does feel dated, but the essential issue ó how can we get along when we don't understand each other ó feels absolutely spanking fresh." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times said "it's droll, clever and incisive, but slightly too smart for its own good. It feels sharp rather than truly profound... It's orchestrated, however, with lovely precision by Warchus, on Mark Thompson's chic, white set, and deftly played by his fine cast." Neil Norman in the Daily Express praised "this terrific revival... Rufus Sewell is terrific as the pretentious Serge and is matched by fine performances from Paul Ritter as the cynical 'atrophying' classicist Marc and Tim Key as the lovably inept Yvan. A really great night." Fiona Mountford the London Evening Standard thought that "Matthew Warchus mounts a slightly underwhelming revival... Itís a big stage for just three actors and a lot of bare white walls, but they more or less command it. Yasmina Rezaís precise writing unfolds in a series of short, sharp duologues before the explosive, extended finale. Itís surface gloss rather than real profundity, but appealing surface gloss all the same." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail commented that it was "brightly revived at the Old Vic with Rufus Sewell on good form in one of the three roles... The three actors work really well, Mr Sewell all cheekbones and husky modishness, Mr Ritter finding a nice tone of scepticism and Mr Key winning applause for a riff about Yvanís disastrous wedding plans."
Tim Key's West End credits include Daniel Kitson's play Tree at the Old Vic Theatre in 2015. Paul Ritter's London theatre credits include Peter Morgan's play The Audience at the Gielgud Theatre in 2013; Alan Ayckbourn's trilogy The Norman Conquests (Round and Round the Garden, Table Manners and Living Together) at the Old Vic Theatre in 2008; Harold Pinter's play The Birthday Party at the Duchess Theatre in 2005; and Simon Bennett's play Drummers at the Ambassadors Theatre in 1999. Rufus Sewell's West End credits include Harold Pinter's Old Times at the Harold Pinter Theatre 2013; and Tom Stoppard's play Rock'n'Roll at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2006.
Christopher Hampton's West End credits include translating and adapting for the stage Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage at the Gielgud Theatre in 2008 starring Ralph Fiennes, Tamsin Greig, Janet McTeer, Ken Stott and directed Matthew Warchus; Florian Zeller's The Father starring Kenneth Cranham and directed by James Macdonald at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2015 and Duke of York's Theatre 2016; and Sandor Marai's Embers at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2006 starring Jeremy Irons and directed by Michael Blakemore. His play Treats was revived at the Garrick Theatre in 2007 starring Billie Piper, Kris Marshall and Laurence Fox and directed by Laurence Boswell. He also co-wrote, along with Don Black, Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals Stephen Ward at the Aldwych Theatre in 2013 and Sunset Boulevard. Christopher Hampton is probably best known for his translation of Choderlos de Laclos' Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
Matthew Warchus' London stage directing credits include the musical Matilda currently playing at the Cambridge Theatre along with revival of Harold Pinter's play The Caretaker starring Timothy Spall at the Old Vic Theatre in 2016; Henrik Ibsen's play The Master Builder starring Ralph Fiennes at the Old Vic Theatre in 2016; Ira Levin's comedy thriller Deathtrap starring Simon Russell Beale and Jonathan Groff at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2010; and Marc Camoletti's comedy Boeing Boeing starring Mark Rylance, Roger Allam and Frances de la Tour at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2007.
"Beautifully played by Tim Key, Yvan is the most likeable character here... Matthew Warchus directs with great skill and a lovely sense of timing. He calls Art a 'big small play', dealing with the vast issue of how we can all get along while disagreeing passionately about things that really matter... If Key gives us the emotional heart of the play, then Paul Ritter as the perpetually angry Marc is hilarious, near boiling point about pretty well everything... Serge is impossible to like, a cold connoisseur, but Rufus Sewell plays him convincingly, with his slightly basilisk stare and immaculate grooming... Fraught, neurotic and needy, the three men here actually discuss each other's emotional lives or, even more revolting, their own emotional lives ó then have great tantrums and fits of the vapours about it. This really doesn't ring true. The thing about male friendship is that it's so blissfully uncomplicated, simple-minded and cheerful ó a bit like a beagle. Still, if not quite the 'big small play' that's claimed, Art remains a funny and thought-provoking bit of theatre, bursting with ideas and sly aperÁus" The Sunday Times
"Just so you know, that poster on the Tube that shows Rufus Sewell and fellow actors Paul Ritter and Tim Key chucking buckets of multicoloured paint over each other doesn't quite happen in the play it advertises. In this fizzing revival of French writer Yasmina Reza's monster hit comedy of the 1990s, the fighting between three best friends is mainly vocal, if vicious. So what causes civilised grown-ups to go at each other like hyenas trapped in a sack? Well, Sewell's Serge has paid Ä100,000 for a painting - a great big, white oblong streaked with barely visible white lines. For Ritter's traditionalist Marc it's nothing but a status symbol, a pompous attempt by Serge to redefine himself as 'one of the great connoisseurs'. For Marc the painting is more fart than art, or as he says to Serge, 'It's s***', which is where the gouache hits the fan and the 90 uninterrupted minutes of Matthew Warchus's cool production becomes superheated by argument. It's also where the hitherto suppressed resentments of age-old friendships rise to the surface like globules of molten lava. Key's underachiever Yvan serves as hapless peacemaker until he is dragged into the conflict. Ritter is terrific and so is Sewell, whose smug, sophisticated Serge is expert at the deadpan putdown. In mute judgment sits the painting - which if as a work of art is half as good as Reza's play, is worth every penny Serge paid." The London Metro
Art in London at the Old Vic Theatre previewed from 10 December 2016, opened on 20 December 2016 and closed on 18 February 2017.