WEST END HIT Art Edinburgh: King’s Theatre, Mon 21—Sat 26 Feb.

When Sean Connery's wife, Michelle, discovered the play on the Paris circuit six years ago, who could have predicted that Yasmina Reza's 90-minute comedy would become the envy of theatreland? An unpretentiously simplistic, character-driven, three-man performance centred around an argument over a bloody great blank canvas might not instantly seem like the kind of thing to take Broadway by storm. However, four years of touring later, and it looks as if everyone’s favourite Bond did well to take his wife’s advice and snap up the rights to the show ASAP.

After winning universal critical acclaim and the Laurence Olivier Award, and attracting such diverse talents as Albert Finney, Jack Dee and Richard Griffiths, Art has already been predicted as the potential heir to The Mousetrap‘s ever-diminishing 47-year run. Oh, and they loved it so much on Broadway it managed to scoop the coveted Tony Award as well.

So what is it about this Parisian satire that's blowing away the competition everywhere from London’s West End to Australia? The secret appears to be a frank observation of that universal truth: all men are just little boys at heart.

‘There's this sense in which the three men are extremely childlike, like squabbling toddlers crashing

Men behaving badly: Art

into each other,’ explains director Rachel Kavanaugh. ’lt’s very like Men Behaving Badly; grown men acting like children because they haven‘t got what they want, played so passionately that it’s actually very, very funny.‘

The intense dynamic between the three revolves around a major scuffle following Serge's (Nigel Havers) hilariously naive foray into the world of fine art. After spending a ludicrous amount of money on an untitled painting consisting of ‘white stripes on a white background’, Serge’s hot-headed best friend Marc (Barry Foster) understandably loses all respect for him, succinctly describing Serge’s investment as ‘shit‘. Enter Yven (Roger Lloyd Pack) as the well-meaning mediator, his lack of commitment to either side of the argument making him the focus of resentment from both sides.

Inevitably, the play‘s thematic and technical simplicity means that the depth and charisma of the characters become central to the performance. ‘The production allows the characters to exist, well, in a blank canvas,‘ explains Kavanaugh. ‘The set is incredibly simple, it really is just three men in a space battling out their relationship. All really exciting drama is about relationships, and this play is an example of that. It‘s not really about modern art, but about male relationships; plays that deal with friendship, especially male friendship, are rare. It’s a rare subject treated in a most entertaining manner, and I think that‘s got a great deal to do with its success.’ (Olly Lassman)


Tabula Rasa

Edinburgh: Brunton Theatre, Thu 2 Mar, then touring.

The wall of silence: Home

52 THE UST l7 Feb—2 Mar 2000

'Dance is a way of seeing the world through movement and the body.’ Independent choreographer Claire Pencak - Surrey-born but Scotland- based since 1991 founded the Tabula Rasa only last year. The name is Latin for ’a tablet from which the writing has been erased’ and has special appeal for her because: ’it gives me a blank sheet upon which to create’.

Tabula Rasa’s first-ever Scottish tour features three pieces devised by Pencak and collaborators: ’they’ve got the mark of being by the same choreographer, but each work creates its own world.’

In the subtly dramatic solo Rea/isation Of The Inner Parts, Pencak shares the stage with a sculptural setpiece (by Eliza Gilchrist and Emma Barnes) that looks like a witches hat-rack on a plinth. Mentored by Cryptic’s Cathie Boyd, this intriguing piece charts a neurotic, imperious woman’s psychic disintegration. ’I went in with a lot of movement material and Cathie gave it more of a story. She made me look at

this character's journey and she also wanted to create very bold stage pictures.’

The Listeners, based on images from one of Ted Hughes’s poems, was made for dancers Clare de Laval and Trevor Waldron. ’People will read a story into it but it’s more of a dramatic dialogue and spatially, very strong,’ insists Pencak. ’The first part is set on a bleak, stormy landscape. It ends with two people in a house, listening to noises outside but also to their own bodies.’ The Edinburgh Quartet will play

composer Ornette Clennon’s commissioned score live on opening night.

The 90-minute programme is rounded off by Openwork, set among what Pencak refers to as ’heaps of hanging plastic sheets.’ Pencak has her sights set on three-year funding, but first has to prove the company's staying power. ’l feel like I’m just starting,’ she says. ’And I’m definitely planning on sticking around.’

(Donald Hutera)

Stage whispers

Re: heading the boards

THEATRE LOVERS ARE up for their biggest and busiest nights since the festival over the next few weeks, with such year-long highlights as Theatre Babel‘s Greeks and Suspect Culture's Candide 2000, the biggest and most promising productions yet undertaken by these young companies, coming up in March. There‘s also plenty to be going on with now. Below are some more splendid theatre events not previewed elsewhere in our current, already crammed issue.

Festival Of New Theatre In Scotland (or FONTS) offers audiences the opportunity to view new talent with young writers and student actors from all over Scotland mixing with seasoned professionals to present a glimpse of things to come in the Scottish Theatre. A dozen productions, combining new plays and dance pieces will be mounted from Monday 21 to Saturday 26 February, at the Bedlam Theatre and Club Nego at Negociants bar in Edinburgh. Previous years have thrown up big names in Scottish theatre, and there’s every reason to anticipate more goodies this year.

At The Arches in Glasgow, Collusion, another promising local company, will present Eve, the story of a young Glaswegian girl thrown into new circumstances when she journeys from a broken relationship into a world of venality and corruption. How will she interact with all this, and what will she learn? Go and see on Friday 25 or Saturday 26 February. The piece will be accompanied by a short play, Crystalhouse, about an epiphany in the lives of two female tramps. YOUNG COMICS ALSO have something to look forward to in the next few months. Billy Bonkers, that prince of Weegie comics, has announced a new talent competition, with a prize of £500 on offer for the winner. Only two conditions apply: You mustn‘t have been performing regularly for more than eighteen months, and you mustn‘t have had a previous paid gig at Billy’s Cosy Comedy Café. If you think you‘re card enough, phone 0141 357 S387.

Appletising: Collusion