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New Forest Players returned to Forest Arts Centre to make use of its simple 'black box' stage for the award-winning play, Art.

WHO could expect that a play about three men quarrelling could be so funny but this was certainly the case when New Forest Players, returning to Forest Arts Centre to make use of their simple ‘black box’ stage, presented the award-winning play, Art.

Christopher Hampton’s translation of Yasmina Reza’s French play, which opened in London in 1996 to good reviews in both the West End and on Broadway, revolves around three men who have had a solid friendship for a number of years but this is put to the test when one of them spends €200,000 on a large, plain, completely white painting.

New Forest Players performed ART
New Forest Players performed ART

Mike Deacon was excellent as Serge, the rich art lover with a passion for modern art, indignant at any insults. Martyn French was splendid as Marc, his down-to-earth, scoffing friend who, deemed a ‘nostalgia merchant’ by Serge, can’t understand how his pal can waste his money on such ‘rubbish’. John Tickner was superb fun as Yvan, the timid, go-between member of the trio keeping both sides happy.

Discussions between Serge and Marc become more and more heated as the play progresses except when they are disapproving of Yvan’s forthcoming marriage to a domineering fiancee. Poor Yvan is also oppressed by a coercive mother and faces an insoluble dilemma over all the wedding plans. He suddenly explodes with frustration and his rapid enacting of a two-way telephone conversation with his mother becomes increasingly fast and frantic as he switches from one side to the other – a veritable tour de force.

All three actors gave brilliant performances, handling the wordy script with ease whether delivered as dialogues with another, conversations between the three or in monologues directly to the audience.

New Forest Players performed ART
New Forest Players performed ART

Lyn Lockyer produced a great play supported by a strong creative team. Clever lighting effects seamlessly transformed the basic set from Serge’s monochrome apartment to Marc’s warm home to Yvan’s geometric flat, aided by an appropriate painting illuminated on the wall of each, and suitable sound effects smoothly heralded the change of scenes. A riveting evening which raised the question: Art, what is it all about?

Alison Smith

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