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New Era - Art

14th to 16th and 19th to 23rd September 2006.

Here is the NWN review.

Experience the key to New Era success

New Era Players: Art, at the New Era Theatre, Wash Common, from Tuesday September 19 to Saturday, September 23

Friendship can be a fragile thing. Yasmina Reza’s play, translated by Christopher Hampton, explores how the friendship of three men is threatened and nearly destroyed when one of them, Serge, buys a piece of modern art for 200,000 francs.

Art has been a very successful play, both in the West End and around the country, and it has now become available for amateur production. With a cast of just three men, this is a demanding play but with three very experienced actors New Era did it full justice.

The three friends are very different characters. Marc is taut and edgy, Serge is pompous and supercilious, and Yvan is generally easy going but gets stressed. The actors highlighted these traits very well.

Nigel Winter was Marc, initially outraged by Serge’s purchase of the apparently blank canvas. His repressed anger gradually bubbled to the surface until he was apoplectic.

Tim Oldham was delightful as Serge. Clearly thinking himself to be the intellectual and aesthete of the trio, he was shocked and hurt by the reaction of his friends to the painting.

As Yvan, David Zeke became increasingly agitated as the problems with his friends were magnified by the complexities of his impending marriage. “I’m a lightweight, I don’t have any opinions”, he says, and has difficulty keeping up with Marc and Serge who are less than encouraging about his fiancée.

By using asides to the audience, the characters tell us what they’re feeling, in contrast to what they are saying to the others. As the play progresses, they become more forthright with each other, and the superficiality of their friendship is exposed. They are reconciled at the end, with the help of a slick and funny bonding session involving olives.

The simple, plain set, with three modern chairs and a table, represented the rooms of the three characters, with a picture on the wall (or in Serge’s case, off the wall) to distinguish them.

Although Reza’s characters are stylised almost to the point of caricature, the big achievement of director Anne Oldham’s production is to make them believable. This is a tribute to the skill of the three actors, and the performance was a delight to watch.