In his later years, Serge (Marc Tomlinson) has been nurturing a love of art. A love that results in his spending £100,000 on a white painting characterised only by some very faint grey lines. Yasmina Reza’s smash hit comedy Art is reborn at the East Riding Theatre and follows three friends Serge, Marc (Richard Avery) and Yvan (Clive Kneller) as their timeworn friendship threatens to come to an unpleasant end after the worth of art is valued over the worth of friendship.
Under Martin Hutson’s direction, proceedings are kept very simple. There’s a sense of lethargy in the staging that favours the contemplations and ruminations of Reza’s script over the laugh out loud comedy. Ed Ullyart’s set is equally simple, and is as plainly white as Serge’s expensive painting. Chris Warner’s gentle, plodding piano score doesn’t offer any extra excitement and even becomes repetitive underneath every moment of direct address. It’s a straightforward and formulaic experience.
The three performers are certainly accomplished in their roles and their real life chemistry is evident. But Clive Kneller’s touching depiction of Yvan, middle-aged man in turmoil, expertly balances the pathos and the humour of the play that the rest of the production struggles to grasp. In particular, his breathtakingly long monologue about his pre-marriage doubts best displays his skilful command of both the stage and his character. He is the perfect foil and Kneller will win your heart.
However, Kneller cannot save a production that feels as reflective as a trip around an art gallery. There’s certainly plenty of time to think and there’s even a chance that the experience might alter your perspectives. But, as a performance, it is too contemplative and fails to gather the pace and excitement that is necessary to draw out the true comedy of Reza’s script.