Review: Art at the Loft in Leamington is 'simply one of the finest shows I have seen anywhere'

Nick Le Mesurier reviews Art at the Loft Theatre, Leamington

There’s something going on at the Loft. There has been a run there recently of really outstanding small-cast plays.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Birthday Party, and now Yasmina Reza’s Art. This time it’s a three-hander bromance which takes to the stage.

In general, one might say that art is supposed to be controversial, a catalyst for the emotions and both a mirror to and a measure of society’s values. That’s great as an idea, but when it becomes personal, as it does for three old friends Marc (Mark Roberts), Serge (Chris Gilbey-Smith), and Yvan (Tony Homer) when Serge unexpectedly buys a very expensive modern painting, abstract notions take on a very visceral quality. It’s not just the money involved, it’s the painting itself. For it is white. All white. With three white stripes like scratch marks upon it. It doesn’t even have a frame.

To say that the three men have different views on what art should be is to understate the matter. Serge is in love with the painting and sees it as a thing of beauty, but also of the latest fashion and status. Marc, to say the least, has a more traditional view, and sees it as pretentious and vastly over-priced rubbish. Yvan has his own domestic problems to deal with and wouldn’t be that bothered were his friendship not suddenly at risk. It’s a play with so many layers beneath the ordinary veneer of civilised behaviour that one begins to question one’s own values in turn.

All this would be at best an interesting debate were it not so outrageously moving and funny. This has much to do with the quality of the acting and Sue Moore’s sensitive intelligent direction. So tight is the performance that the slightest shift away from the exquisite balance between the three characters would see the whole thing topple. But it doesn’t, not for a second. This is simply one of the finest shows I have seen anywhere on a stage.

Art runs until Saturday January 28. Visit lofttheatrecompany.com or call 01926 830680 to book.