Jaw-droppingly, edge of your seat incredible.
If I had paid £40 for this in the West End I would be delighted with what I saw for my money. This production, however, will cost you less than a tenner and is performed, not by professionals, but by a group of young actors, all recent graduates from the University of Birmingham with a level of professionalism and theatrical awareness that literally made me put my notes down in case I blinked and missed a microsecond.
Serge (Danny Fisher) has bought a painting. But not just any painting. This is a perfectly white Andrios canvas that cost him 200,000 francs. Marc (David Moriquand) is furious about this extravagant waste of money and Serge’s infatuation with it. And their mutual friend Yvan (Benjamin Darlington) is unable to express an opinion either way for fear of upsetting his best friends.
The performances are staggering. Under Anthony Pinnick’s brilliant direction, these characters are permanently on the edge of complete emotional collapse whilst retaining their believability and heart. Moriquand’s Marc is a gloriously contemptuous yuppie, who swills homeopathic remedies between rapid-fire bursts of apoplectic criticisms of the white painting. He’s always one notch below completely boiling over and turning Patrick Bateman’s nailgun on his friends. Danny Fisher, meanwhile, offers the perfect antithesis in Serge. He’s a pompous, yet collected, aesthete, tolerant of Marc’s opinions but refusing to let them go unchallenged, down to the adverbs Marc uses so carelessly. He never rises to Moriquand’s level of fury, not because he can’t, but because his is a performance realised in serene patience and complete faith in his character.
It’s almost offensive to Fisher and Moriquand to call Darlington’s Yvan the stand-out performance of the show. But his performance is so completely formed, so perfectly rendered that I was genuinely concerned for his well-being as an actor. His nervous, twitching, stuttering Yvan straddles the line between Marc and Serge’s intellectualism, his fear literally paralysing him on stage. The highlight of the show is his five-minute, uninterrupted monologue about a disaster that has befallen his wedding invitations. It sees Darlington take on three characters at a speed that would make Lewis Hamilton quake in fear and I was left wondering when he was breathing.
The play itself is fascinating. It throws up questions of the value of modernity, the purpose of intellectual and academic debate and whether money can truly buy art, culture or even value. If I could award them more stars then I absolutely would. Suffice to say, if you want to see an actual piece of theatre, by one of the most professional companies at this year’s Fringe for less than the price of a round, then you would be well advised to run down to C before Art sells out. And if it doesn’t, it will be an absolute crime
Reviewed by Rob Marks