Review: Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams take turns in Mary Stuart, Almeida Theatre
Review: The cleverly concise Hamlet, Trafalgar Studios 2

Review: (But is it) Art, Old Vic Theatre

ART Tim Key, Rufus Sewell and Paul Ritter. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Serge (Rufus Sewell) has bought a painting, it's five foot by four foot and is white. He paid a lot for it. His friend Marc (Paul Ritter) sees red and isn't afraid to let him know. His friend Yvan (Tim Key) is more diplomatic but that causes its own problems.

Is it Art? Well that's almost besides the point, it's more what it says about Serge in Marc's and Yvan's eyes and what that means for their friendship. Through a series of monologues and exchanges - which are humourously juxtaposed to emphasise the diplomacy/lies in their relationships - the strength and strains of their friendship is revealed.

Marc feels let down by Serge, Serge thinks Marc is arrogant and Yvan just wants to escape from the stress of trying to organise his wedding and therefore agrees with everyone to maintain the status quo.  Can their friendship survive the painting purchase?

This is a meatier play than the synopsis would suggest. Yes there are plenty of laugh out loud moments - the comic timing of the actors is razor sharp - but it also has a lot to say about the nature of human friendships particularly over time. It is a play that feels like a riotous watch but has darker notes which linger long after the actors have taken their bow. It is a play that entertains but also forces you to examine your own attitude towards friendships. It is a play about honesty that forces you to be honest with yourself - would you honestly admit which character you most identify with? It is also a play in which three men silently eating olives has never said quite so much.

Art is on at the Old Vic Theatre until 18 February and is 90 minutes without an interval. I'm giving it four and a half stars.