Presented by Verendus Theatrical
Reviewed 30 October 2019
Art provides an interesting example of how one single action (in this case the purchase of a painting) can trigger the emotional fracturing of a 15 year friendship and where the possibility of a resolution seems almost non-existent.
As the stage lights go up the audience finds two friends, Marcia and Charlotte, chatting away in a stylish lounge room. Charlotte, a well-dressed and elegant woman, is delighted to show the more casual Marcia her latest purchase – a painting she bought for $100,00 from prominent modern artist, Antrios. Marcia recoils in shock, not only at the minimalistic style of this modern piece which appears as a white canvas with slightly darker white stripes, but at the cost, which Charlotte reassures her is reasonable for “an Antrios”. Still in shock, Marcia, turns to the audience and points out in a direct monologue that this is a substantial sum of money to spend on anything when you’re middle-class, let alone a piece of art. Charlotte, who appears to consider herself an art connoisseur attuned to the finer things in life, is totally elated with her purchase, angering Marcia to the point where she frustratingly calls the work “a piece of shit” and this is where things start to turn really sour…
As the narrative progresses the disagreement between Marcia and Charlotte becomes much more heated, drawing in the pair’s third long-term friend Yvette, a compulsive fence-sitter, to take sides (which doesn’t end too well for someone who simply wants to please everyone). As behind-the-back gossiping comes to light and long held private opinions are made public, the trio’s friendship comes crashing down around them with little-to-no hope of salvation. But, could there be a light at the end of the tunnel for these three?
The plot of Art is simple, just like the production’s name, which allows for a deep exploration of interpersonal relationships and examples of how people grow in different ways over the course of a friendship. Should different interests, passions and preferences really end an important friendship? Or is learning to accept and appreciate the differences in those around us the mature and healthy way to deal with change?
Director Tim Williams has cleverly utilised a simple set to match the simple premise, allowing the audience’s focus to remain on the fracturing relationships and damaging interactions between the ‘close friends’. This simplicity also allows the audience to place themselves in this theatrical situation and let their imaginations explore how they would respond to being called a “coward, arse-licker” or to being told their extravagant purchase was “a piece of shit”. It also lets them indulge in the not-so-nice feelings and frustrations they’d like to express to their friends, though likely never will – watching a fictional version of it play out in front of them might be enough satisfaction.
Tracey Walker is at times terrifyingly controlling as the critical Marcia whose reluctance to accept her friend’s purchase unveils troubling feelings. Alicia Zorkovic wholly captures the refined, and sometimes rather uppity nature of Charlotte in speech, body movement and credible disdain for those who do not meet her aloof level of cultural standing. Lyn Wilson is a powerhouse within Art, stealing scenes with her strong monologues that sum up the frustrations of the fence-sitting, middle-woman, Yvette.
Originally written in 1994 by French playwright Yasmina Reza and premiering at the Comédie des Champs-Elysées in Paris, this simple theatrical creation shot to global popularity. In 1996, it opened in London in a translation by Christopher Hampton, running for a successful eight years and then enjoying equal success in New York where it picked up a Tony award for best new play.
A simple premise allows room for deep exploration of interpersonal relationships in the half comedy, half drama of Art where audience members can voyeuristically view the often-uncomfortable honesty of friendship from the safety of their seats.
Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Venue: The Studio, Holden Street Theatres
Season: 30 October – 2 November 2019
Duration: 80 mins
Tickets: $19 – $24