WE ALL know someone who can get a bit pretentious, especially when art is involved.

While some people will happily stare at a painting for hours stroking their chin like a hipster Gandalf, others just can’t make the same connection. What on earth do they see in that painting? Do they genuinely like and feel it? Or are they just trying to appear more cultured and high-brow?

It's this subjectivity that gets the ball rolling in Art, an 80-minute three-man play by the wonderful Lion & Unicorn.

Serge (Joff Lacey – surely one of the hardest-working figures in Petersfield’s arts and entertainment scene) has bought a painting for a cool 100,000 Euros. Or maybe it’s not a painting. It’s a large white canvas with three white brush strokes, but it’s very hard to see them.

His friend and mentor Marc (Martin Hogg) thinks he’s crazy and calls the piece something unprintable. Cue an increasingly heated debate about art, semantics, taste, and that most curious of things, male friendships.

In the middle of all this is Yvan (Ben Gander), a stationery salesman who is stressed about his forthcoming wedding. He’s getting therapy – with both Marc and Serge dismissing his therapist in a twist on values – but he’s a rather browbeaten anti-conflict chap who sits on the fence and just wants everyone to be friends and enjoy a nice meal out together. He played the role perfectly.

Directors Jack May and Miri Bradder went for a less is more approach with only the green of Perrier bottles contrasting to the all-white set, mirroring the blankness of the canvas.

Credit must be given to L&U for picking a play heavy on dialogue with such a small cast carrying the weight. Inevitably, this led to a few minor slip-ups but the cast acted well and nailed their character’s traits to a tee.

Hogg nailed the role of the artist who sees himself as intellectually superior while Gander was a blast as the stressed-out non-committal Yvan. His one-man monologue about the verbal jousting between him, his stepmum and mother was arguably the highlight of the show and rightfully earned a round of applause.

Lacey came over as the artist who fancies himself as an expert and wants the same standing as Serge. He steadfastly defends his purchase and picks holes in Serge's arguments. Their disagreements are a window into how long-standing relationships can disintegrate over trivial matters, but also how men have a habit of burying their feelings.

Seeing this very deep production in a time of mulled wine and mince pies was refreshing, and memories of it will linger long after the last cracker has been pulled.

Lion & Unicorn Players


Stroud Village Hall, Saturday, December 2