“Art is a captivating and understated comedy, providing many laughs and moments of reflection”
Sixth Side Theatre Company presents a thought-provoking comedy capturing the complexities of friendship dynamics, whilst exploring how abstract themes can be presented in minimalistic ways. The directorial vision of Alysia Orbell was apparent throughout. The script itself was rather challenging as it was a translation of a French play by Yasmin Reza, although this posed no barrier to the engaging and hilarious portrayal of the characters by each of the actors.
Major credit must be given to the whole cast and creative team for bringing to life a plot that subtly addresses the nuance of insecurity and unhappiness seen in the lives of each character. The dialogue between each actor would be confusing to understand without the relatability and humour seen throughout, it was clear that much direction was given to utilise the space of Dowrick Suite, this meant the audience felt immersed in the plot. At times, each actor would direct their monologue to a section of the audience, this really helped to capture the realism of the play. Even if the literature of the lines felt difficult to understand, the humour and sheer intensity of the script was felt by every audience member. Attention must be given to the set and lighting design as, even with the limited resources available, their use worked wonderfully as the central location that all characters vented their frustrations on.
The production team (Eliza Davis and Cathy Zhou) did a fantastic job in ensuring that the focus was always on the incredible acting; the use of minimal setting and lighting meant that the props used had far greater significance, and this intentionally highlighted the diversity of each acting choice. Of course, if more varied lighting was available the monologues could have stood out even more, although this has little impact on how successful the comical aspects were. The integration of the stairs within the play was a clever way to utilise the limited space. It especially did a great job in allowing the actors to display the space felt between each character, resulting in moments of palpable tension. The costumes of all the actors felt very real to the context of when the play was written, and the transitions of blackouts wasn’t too distracting, although I feel it could have been smoother if background music had been used to maintain the engagement of the audience.
The level of attention to detail seen in each actor’s portrayal was rather remarkable. Occasionally, the script felt outdated, but each actor used their facial expressions and tone of voice to modernise their character. The chemistry of the three actors was entertaining and endearing, each brought something unique to the play, and all clearly had a great grasp of the complexity of the plot. Without a doubt, Ben Cawood’s sensitive yet hysterical portrayal of Yvan was one of the most impressive performances I have seen in DST. Given how complex of a role he had, his use of physical theatre and general energetic persona left me speechless. The humour and spontaneity he brought to the stage was incredibly fun to watch, especially when it’s revealed to the audience how Yvan isn’t as cheerful as he first seems. Cawood’s ability to make the audience feel empathy for him, whilst simultaneously providing comedic relief for the deeper undertones of the script, should be commended.
The contrasting yet effective acting choices made by Lucinda Turner (Marc) and Mollie Finniear (Serge) worked incredibly well at creating a passionate and turbulent friendship. Each of their characters represent feelings of insecurity, control and fear of change; they both do a brilliant job at keeping the pacing of the play, whilst ensuring these feelings are properly presented. Turner held a sarcastic and logical identity throughout, which revealed their own problems of insecurity. The most impressive quality of her performance was her ability to command the stage, through impressive projection and vocal control. Likewise, Finniear maintained her character of an open-minded, yet sometimes reckless, man and she did a great job at emphasising the self-righteousness of her role. Her character drives much of the plot to question the value of their friendships, and Finniear successfully portrays the jumpy and impulsive qualities that represents her character. I particularly enjoyed the moments of physical theatre as they remind the audience of the abstract nature of the play, which of course focuses on a singular white canvas.
Overall, Art is a captivating and understated comedy, providing many laughs and moments of reflection. I would highly recommend visiting Dowrick Suite as a treat before exams!
By Niamh Williams
Photo Credits: Sixth Side