STAGE REVIEW: Art - at the Festival Theatre, Malvern, from Monday, February 25 to Saturday, March 3, 2019.

SHORT but scintillatingly superb!

Yazmina Reza’s cute and cleverly caustic comedy may only be a one-act offering of 87 minutes duration but it is an absolute gem.

And gathering a theatrical trinity for a cast of such standing as Nigel Havers, Denis Lawson and Stephen Tomkinson together is a master-stroke. It couldn’t fail with these three veritable veterans of stage and screen.

There is considerable chemistry between the trio and as they ensure Reza’s script is done full justice it all elicits laughter galore.

They’re a group of old friends but quite prepared to aim barbs in each other’s direction which clearly indicates their ‘camaraderie’ has always been a somewhat strained relationship.

Old wounds resurface and come to a head when Serge, played by Havers, purchases a modern painting for £200,000 and has to endure a fulsome fusillade of criticism from Marc, Dennis Lawson.

After all - the painting is simply white paint on a large canvas!! Devoid of anything else…

Enter third friend - Tomkinson’s Yvan, and that ensures the ante in this comedy masterpiece is cranked up several degrees.

He is piggy in the middle, emotionally battered by events - especially his impending march down the aisle.

Clearly the three are masters of their art, perfectly comfortable in each other’s company but it’s Tomkinson who possibly steals the night, in particular with his five-minute-plus rant about his wedding invitation cards. Unique and unmissable.

Art first burst forth on stage 20-odd years ago in Paris years ago and has since gathered a variety of awards as it toured the UK and the rest of the world. But apparently the French writer originally felt she had a penned a tragedy.

However, it’s without doubt a comedy but in many respects it’s also a satirical offering of great pedigree that ensures there is as much to ponder on as there is to laugh about.

A production of pure gold with acting to match. What more could any theatre lover wish for?