(The Old Vic, 10th Dec- 18th Feb 2017)
'Its shit' says Marc, played by Paul Ritter. As he is staring at a while canvas with white diagonal lines across it, in complete bafflement and confusion as to why his friend of 15 years has spent 100,000 Euros on an Antrios's painting. Serge played by Rufus Sewell is in confusions as to why his friend can't see the appeal of owning such a painting at a steal of a price 'guess how many Antrios's they had in the Pompidou.... three' as if this would suddenly bring enlightenment across Marc's confused and questioning brain.
The play returning to the capital after 20 years sees the breakdown of three friends induced by the purchasing of a white painting. Being an artist myself I instantly found interest in the story, as I would find such pieces of art; shit. But have the understanding and open mindness that people have the freedom to like whatever they please. Where as Marc finds himself being very jealous of his oldest friends sudden interest in such a piece. Feeling like he has been replaced. Ivan played by Tim Key is a bummbling joker type who will stay neutral to each of his friend to not cause argument or dispute. Being confronted by Marc about his worry for Serge 'he has lost his sense of humor', 'I bet I can make him laugh' Says Ivan. He goes to visit Serge himself to see the painting appearing to like it and feels its magnitude, agreeing with what Serge is expressing. Serge disscusses his disappointment with Marc 'He has lost his sense of humor'.
The play opens with Marc's monologue about his friend purchasing the painting. With a blacked out stage with single spotlight. This speaking to the audience from the characters internal thinking is a continuous attribute through the show. For me it brought an element a book would but a film doesn't, a heightened awareness of characters personality, thinking and true reasoning behind actions. From being a non-stop preference of 90 minutes on a single topic it broke the scenes into character sections. Each taking turns to present their true emotions towards another character and there thought behind the response of the other towards them. It adds humor and audience inclusion which I truly loved.
The set of the performance which was as minimal as the white painting brought a sterile feeling, one that made you concentrate on the performance and the characters deteriorating mental states. With a single turning wall to show various paintings to represent the three different offices, it gave a simple nod to the differing locations and tastes of the varying characters. Ivan hanging a painting by his father. Marc, a classic renaissance looking landscape, and Serge, a blank space for where his new painting will hang.
It was interesting to witness a breakdown induced by a painting but from points on other topics. Topics which are kept inside by friends who don't want to upset. Brewing inside for a definitive pinnacle where emotions are too high to remain inside. I saw myself within each character and could relate to what each said. The script was relatable witty and sharp, not for a moment was I bored or uninterested in what was happening, being kept on my toes and keen to see where these friends will end up at the end. I wanted them to keep their friendship, but was lost at how they had been friends for so long; with such differing personalities. Which is why I think the audience found a true likeing for each of the charactes and their friendships. You felt empathy, sadness, loss and humor for them, they were real people we could meet in our lives, and probably have witnessed them already.