The play begins with Marc, one of the protagonists, entering the stage from behind the audience talking about his friend, Serge’s sudden interest in a painting. What makes this particular painting so fascinating is that the ‘masterpiece’; is a five by four foot white painting with a white background and white lines!

“Art”, a play by Cult Productions staged at Alliance Française recently, revolves around this white canvas and the role it plays in the bond between three friends – Marc, Serge and Ivon. Written by French playwright Yasmina Reza, it was adapted in English by British playwright Christopher Hampton.

The three characters, being aesthetes in their own right, question their individual prejudices and opinions against each other while debating art in the context of society and culture.

Paying 200,000 Francs for the Antrios painting, Serge, a modernist and puritan, tries to convince Marc of its ingenuity. But Marc, characterised by the epitome of self-acclaim and classicist snobbery, shows utmost resentment to the painting as it poses a symbol of change in their friendship and an expression of Serge’s wish to associate him with high society. Ivan, an oblivious chap, is caught between these two companions and flows in whichever direction the wind blows.

Man’s journey

Mark marches to Ivan’s house to appeal to him to knock some sense into Serge’s head. Ivan mellows Marc’s mood down and heads to Serge’s house but is himself enamoured by the painting as Serge shows off his new acquisition to his friend.

Tension builds in the air as Marc comes to Serge’s house and tries to reason with his friend again. A war of words leads to blows. Ivan, the mediator is struck in the head and falls to the ground.

In an act of reconciliation to rebuild the friendship, Serge encourages Marc to draw on the white painting with a blue pen thus demonstrating more love for his friend than the painting. The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony plays in the background as Marc concludes with a poem that expressed his newfound insight into the painting’s significance. “The painting represents man who goes through space and disappears.”

The cast comprised Akshett Jain as Marc, Aakash Mukerji as Serge and Avinash Daniel as Ivan. The carefully chosen actors finely executed their roles with naturalness and brilliantly brought out the extremes of human nature in the most sublime of ways. The simplistic portrayal of a relationship severed at the seams, encompassing ‘Art’ as it’s supposed to be — universal and conflicting.

The painting functions as a blank screen onto which each character expresses his perspective on art. In the end, the three friends never really reconcile their different attitudes about art, but they do come to appreciate the shared values of friendship that transcend matters of personal taste.