Reviewed by Camilla Makhmudi.
ART by Yasmin Reza has undoubtedly been a hit. It’s one of the biggest grossing comedies of all time (totalling up to £200 million world-wide) according to the show program; which is why I was so surprised at how disappointing I found this performance. Although the actors - Nigel Haver, Denis Lawson and Stephen Tompkinson - are all titans of the acting world and undeniably talented, the combination of the poor acoustics in the theatre and the outdated presentation of the play resulted in a stifled performance of little emotional investment on the audience’s part.
Reza’s script is fascinating: most impressively, it shone a light on the generational divide. For most of the audience members it was laugh out loud funny. Instead, my peers and I found it thought-provoking, with moments of profound insight within an ultimately sad story. The direction of the play was designed to pull in laughs but it actually felt like Reza’s true talent is in insightful, tragic and dynamic dialogue. For me, the play explores the transition into modernism and the changing world of the 1990s, when postmodernism exposed our constructed identities. Through this play, Reza shows us that our identities are based on our experience of others. ‘I am because you are and you are because I am’ – or something like that. All three men embody an ideology and we watch as these ideologies come to blows.
Nevertheless, the premise is interesting and I genuinely think that, fundamentally, the script is excellent. It just didn’t feel exciting because it came across outdated by thirty years. The black out lighting transitions, the tinkly music and clunky lighting felt awkward. I just don’t think three older white men talking about modern art and their feelings in a convoluted way is subversive or exciting. Art and theatre have moved on and this production could do with an update.
ART runs at the King's Theatre until Saturday 16th February 2019.