A heartbreakingly funny examination of friendship and art.

28th Feb - 2nd Mar 2024
Forest Arts Centre

story by:

Yazmina Reza & translated by Christopher Hampton

directed by:

Lyn Lockyer

What's it about?

For one production only, NFP are excited to be returning to their old home, New Forest Arts Centre, at the end of February 2024 and will be performing Art by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton. (All other productions are still at the excellent Ballard School.)
The play is a comedy and has won several awards.

How much would you pay for a white painting? Would it matter who the painter was? Would it be art? One of Marc’s best friends, Serge, has just bought a very expensive painting. To Marc, the painting is a joke, but Serge insists Marc doesn’t have the proper standard to judge the work. Another friend, Yvan, allows himself to be pulled into this disagreement which escalates to often hilarious proportions…

There is a gallery further down the page with 12 photos of the show. To see the complete set of photos please click here:

Many thanks to Paul and Sue Berkeley AFIAP, ARPS, CPAGB for all the wonderful photos

The Cast & Crew

Marc – Martyn French
Yvan – John Tickner
Serge – Michael Deacon

Stage Manager – Tina Fagan
Technical Design, Lighting, Sound – Ben Sandford
Prompt – Wendy Howard-Allen

Review of the Show

If you have a free evening this week, I strongly suggest you make a trip to the Forest Arts Centre to catch New Forest Players’ production of ‘Art’; it is one of the best local amateur productions I have seen in quite some time.

The play centres around the wildly extravagant purchase of a completely white (or is it?) modern painting by Serge (Mike Deacon), the over-exasperated reaction of his friend, Marc (Martyn French), and the attempts of their anxious pal, Yvan (John Tickner), to play peacekeeper. Originally written by French playwright Yasmina Reza in the early 1990s and translated into English by Christopher Hampton, ‘Art’ is a riveting play.

While a debate around the artistic value of the painting triggers the action, there’s much more going on beneath the surface, as the dynamics between the three are explored in detail, and much strain in their friendships is unearthed. “What still ties us together?” asks one character to another, as they reflect on 15 years of close acquaintance. This piece is packed with drama and comedy in equal measure, as Serge, Marc and Yvan evaluate their relationships, what each brings to the table and how they work together to move on from such sharp differences of opinion.

It is a three-hander that demands much from its cast, and it takes a brave amateur society to attempt it, due to the emotional range needed. Fortunately, the company delivered in spades, creating well-rounded and believable characterisations. As Serge, Mike Deacon did an excellent job of presenting a cool, suave, “modern man” demeanour to begin, but grew suitably agitated as the play wore on. Martyn French brought wonderful naturalism and a fantastic variety of facial expressions to Marc, the more cynical of the three. John Tickner put in a memorable performance as the hapless Yvan, whose stumbling into a marriage his friends disapproved of provided a fascinating side story. John’s monologue before the interval (including acting out several telephone calls!) was a highlight of the evening and fully deserving of the round of applause it received from the appreciative first-night audience. All three actors worked well as a team and had strong chemistry; you could imagine them having had a long history together.

The staging was simple but effective. The set consisted of permanently stationed flats upstage representing all three men’s apartments, with different coloured pools of lighting cleverly denoting the change of location. The painting, the cause of all the drama, was set prominently on stage for much of the piece, and the simplicity of the staging allowed it to dominate, almost watching over them. The lighting operation was slick, with several monologues taking place in spots front of stage, while the sound effects helped ease us from one scene to the next (with more frantic music as tension was rising, which was a nice touch). Director Lyn Lockyer should be very proud of her work, and the effort of the cast and crew, as they all came together to put on an outstanding production. ‘Art’ was her second directorial outing for the Players’ following ‘Calendar Girls’ in 2023; she certainly knows how to make a dramatic and moving play take a successful journey from the page to the stage.

The play runs until Saturday evening and I can’t recommend it highly enough. A warning – there is adult language throughout the play, a disclaimer about which probably should have been featured on the Players’ advertising materials. It didn’t seem to bother anyone on the first night though, as it was used to good dramatic effect, but is worth knowing about in advance.

John Sivewright
Scene One+