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Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Four stars

Nothing is remotely black and white in the latest touring revival of Yasmina Reza’s 1996 meditation on friendship of a competitively male kind. Over the last two decades, the play has enabled numerous trios of TV-friendly faces to riff on the ever-changing nature of boys at play.  On the surface, Reza has written a chic sit-com of ever decreasing circles, a blank canvas of middle-aged spread that dissects and – yes – deconstructs a three-way split of a lifetime of shared experience. In truth, she has created something timeless, but which ebbs and flows in value at every showing.

Its starting point, the purchase of a Robert Rymanesque white on white painting by Nigel Havers’ debonair and ever-aspirant Serge, and the explosive rift it causes with his cynical friend Marc, played by Denis Lawson, is actually something of a red herring. This becomes clear when their other friend Yvan appears. With more down to earth problems of his own to contend with, Stephen Tompkinson’s Yvan is torn between both men, driven by a fear of causing offence in the face of such mutual extremes in a way that is increasingly indicative of our times.

Ellie Jones’ touring production is based on Matthew Warchus’ original Old Vic take on Christopher Hampton’s immaculately minimalist translation. Played out on designer Mark Thompson’s gleaming barely-there set, the result throughout Reza and Hampton’s series of bite-size duologues and monologues is as much an exercise in choreographing the action in a suitably painterly fashion as anything. In this respect, Havers’ faddish Serge, Lawson’s reactionary Marc and Tompkinson’s galumphing Yvan are allowed  to bask in some deliciously urbane exchanges, each coloured in by a succession of well-timed physical tics. By the end, they are framed as life-studies caught in a succession of moments that may yet define them.

The Herald, April 11th 2018

ends

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