“I just wanted an enjoyable evening”
As someone who considers themselves otherwise rather culturally inclined, I always feel a bit sheepish admitting that I don’t much care for art. Going around a gallery with other people all around and pretending to know what is good about this painting or that is just not my bag, although I did spend an enjoyable couple of hours at the Rijksmuseum last week, on my own and with their app providing commentary on a recommended tour of the highlights, so perhaps there’s hope for me yet.
Which is all a prelude to saying that the idea of Yasmin Reza’s Art never appealed to me during its previous stays in the West End, and that even tripping along to the Old Vic for this new revival marking the twentieth anniversary of the play was something of a reluctant stretch. But go I did, to see Matthew Warchus resurrect his original production in the theatre where he is now artistic director, reuniting his creative team with a new cast of Rufus Sewell, Paul Ritter and Tim Key.
It’s tough to go into a show like Art with no preconceptions and whilst sometimes when I go in with low expectations, I end up being pleasantly surprised, this was not one of those occasions. A fellow blogger described it beforehand as French people arguing and he wasn’t wrong, with the added je ne sais quoi of it being upper-middle-aged white men talking about their upper-middle-class white men problems for 90 minutes, without an interval, to little substantive effect. For me.
But I suppose that’s the beauty of Reza’s play, should you wish to find beauty in there you can. It’s a reflection on the contemporary art scene in that respect, or cock your head to one side and it is a musing on the fragility of modern masculinity. Or blink your eyes and it is just a blank canvas. All three men deliver committed performances, particularly Key’s neurotic Yvan, but Art certainly remains in the eye of the beholder.