Artful Lord M -Review of Art, Old Vic

(Now seen it twice and it is still brilliant!)

Rufus Sewell captured hearts across Britain as Lord Melbourne in the tv show Victoria and is no less mesmerising in the Old Vic’s revival of witty three-hander Art.

The play itself is ageing as well as its star. The chilly auditorium (do they actually have central heating?) resounded with laughter while the three old friends argued over a painting. The memory of my previous trip to the Old Vic trip where I shivered (did I mention how cold it is?), surrounded by stifled yawns and snores at the woeful King Lear, has been all but washed away.

I have a huge soft spot for Art and saw the last run no fewer than five times with what seemed like virtually every male actor in the 1990s — Ken Stott, Roger Allam, Richard Griffiths, Nigel Havers, Art Malik, Anton Lesser and more, as well as a couple of comedians: Jack Dee and Frank Skinner.

Its blend of humour and emotion, combined with its Classical brevity –90 minutes, no interval– made it the perfect show for entertaining visitors to London, particularly as it finished early enough to allow supper after and still be home for bed at a reasonable time.

It is still perfect.

The comic timing is spot on, under the deft control of Matthew Warchus who directed the equally brilliant DeathTrap in 2010. Tim Key and Paul Ritter deliver strong performances, just as well given this is not a play with anywhere to hide and the set is also very smart.

Most of all, though, it is a hugely welcome return to the stage of one of our most gifted actors, every bit as good in this as he was in Rat in the Skull, Arcadia and Rock ‘n’Roll which really is very good indeed.

Time to book for a return visit, I think.




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