LOCATION: Phillip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, University of the West Indies, Mona
Reviewed by P Gavin James

OVER THE YEARS the University Players have developed a reputation for their interesting portrayals of controversial subjects, irrespective of the results with plays in previous seasons such as After Mrs Rochester in 2006 and Bedroom Farce in 2007. The players have followed through in their form in the Yasmine Reza play ART. This adaptation, directed by Brian Heap, tells a story of three close knit friends of 15 years, Marc ( played by Munair Zacca), Serge ( played by Paul Issa) and Yvan (played by Alwyn Scott).

As the storyline unfolds, the characters raise thought-provoking questions concerning art and its symbolic parallels specifically and friendship in general, which causes the audience to introspect on life and human perceptions. The major contributing factor to the breakdown of friendship between the central characters is the fact that Serge, an art connoisseur, purchases a large and completely white painting, with white lines for $200,000.00, a price which is unjustifiable to fellow art enthusiast Marc. Marc is aghast that such a “horrific” decision could be made by his friend, while Serge expects his friends to approve of his taste in art. This leaves Yvan in an unenviable position between both friends.

Yvan, is the character who is usually the springboard for ideas of both Marc and Serge, and is portrayed as a spineless yes-man, only performing actions in order to please his friends as the end result. He is also burdened by an impending wedding and often expresses his dissatisfaction at his job as a stationery salesman, and it is his friendship with Marc and Serge that provides him with his self assurance. Through his actions, he seeks to mediate the enpasse, but adds more fuel to the fire in the dispute between Serge and Marc. These attributes, coupled with his insecurities, make him out to be an unstable character in the two acts of the play. In the first act, the action unravels, as Marc upon analysing and learning the price of a painting purchased by Serge , disdainfully described the acquisition as “a piece of white s**t,”. This was significant as it raised two points to the audience : a) Was it the painting that had offended him, or was it the uncharacteristic independence-of-thought that the purchase reveals in Serge being that Marc is the dominant friend? Serge, on hearing Marc’s veiw on the paintings poses striking questions: “Who do you think you are?” and “You are Marc what makes you so special?” much to the chagrin of his longtime friend.

Lines are drawn and the true values of their friendship are tested at the extreme as the friends square off over the canvas. It becomes the centrepiece around which Serge , Marc and Ivan excuse to relentlessly batter one another over various failures. In the second of the two acts in the play, the monologues outlining their arguments move away from the painting and take on a personal nature as abrasive remarks are made , which border on destroying their friendship permanently. When somebody pays a fortune for any piece of art , is it because they understand its true value or message …or are they following a trend? This has to take into consideration an individual’s definition of beauty, taste or representation.

Through the portrayal of the dynamics between the three friends, the actors managed to bring across the complexity of the situation and the fluid definition of art effectively. Because art is symbolic by its nature it can hold truth to one human being and mean nothing to another.
In essence, the play promotes the concept that EVERYTHING in and of itself is art. The product of the imagination of one persons intellect cannot be outrule by another once it falls within the confines of what is generally considered to be ‘art’. After watching this play, one could have come to the conclusion that art could not be decided upon by any one individual, as this meant a flexible understanding of art in general. The play effectively conveys that it is logic of differences that governs the definition of art, and not just one individuals definition or interpretation.
The characters have clearly outlined the fact that art cannot be confined by any particular set of people that consider themselves privileged moneyed or learned. The portrayals also leave the audiences to ponder topics on friendship such as : a) Does friendship mean keeping quiet or telling the truth at the expense of the friendship ? Are your friends who they are, or are they who you think they are? At the end it is a lie that saves their friendship and the lie, of course, is white.
There is a glimmer of hope offered at the end of the second act as the friends realize that it was the painting that brought a wedge between them, and they all try and appreciate the painting for its immediate value , despite any previous reservations

Author Profile

I am a graduate of the Caribbean Media and Communication Faculty (CARIMAC) of the University of the West Indies. I believe in our Caribbean people and seek to sensitise and promote who we are through my writings, photography and and graphic design skills. Link me here

By Patrick

I am a graduate of the Caribbean Media and Communication Faculty (CARIMAC) of the University of the West Indies. I believe in our Caribbean people and seek to sensitise and promote who we are through my writings, photography and and graphic design skills. Link me here

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