It was the olives that did it.
Two-thirds of the way through Tryst’s coruscating,
life-enhancing performance of Art,
the three actors paused in their musings about modern
art and nibbled...olives.
Nibbled is not the right word. Nor is masticated, guzzled,
scrunched or munched. No.
Serge delicately removed each layer with a surgeon’s
scalpel-like precision. Marc chewed his thoughtfully,
as one would a pork pie or some other toothsome comestible.
But Yvan chomped on his like a man possessed...and then
spat the pip with unerring accuracy into an empty champagne
bucket. Not once, but three times…even ensuring
he missed the receptacle once and hitting a woman in
the front row a glancing blow on the temple, almost
drawing blood and stunning her sufficiently to require
She was dazed. But I was dazzled.
For in that iconic moment, I saw with dazzling clarity
that this was a stunningly metaphysical metaphor. No,
not a metaphor. An allegory. The director of the piece
was telling us unequivocally, unapologetically, without
a trace of irony: I have deconstructed the play and
it is an allegory of the politics of aesthetics in the
world today. Like olives and pips, it is disposable,
blowing in the wind, small, sharp and slightly painful
if it strikes you in the testicles. Staking its claim
to something intangible and inchoate. Yes, even totally
In that moment, in my eyes at least, Tryst became British
In assessing the efforts of the ensemble - Brian Paterson
(Serge), Craig Murray (Yuan) and Alan Clark (Marc) –
all I can say is that good wasn’t the word. In
fact, I am speechless. It was as if they carelessly
threw a lit match into a huge box of fireworks, causing
ideas, thoughts, insights and truths to whizz around
the Swindon auditorium - alarming small children, frightening
pregnant women, singeing eyebrows, scorching the upholstery
and setting fire to curtains.
Serge was a smug, pseudish, poseurish dilettante; Marc
a thuggish, snobbish classicist with bad hair. And poor
Yvan goes whichever way the wind blows, trying to placate
both sides while struggling with the plans for his disastrous
marriage to Catherine, played with enormous zest by
Tryst newcomer Romero Finkelzohn. (I think I’ve
got this right, but I had to pop out to compose myself
after the olive epiphany and may have got a little confused.)
And may I say the introduction of the ever so slightly
menacing “Curator” (played with sinister
intent by that splendid character actor Felix Perolari)
was a tour de force, a coup de theatre, of which Pinter
himself would have been proud. The way he strode purposefully
towards the Antrios caused the audience a collective
sharp intake of breath. Was he Everyman, about to deface
this loathsome piece of modern art on behalf of humanity?
Had he come to defend its merits and admire its asymmetrical
diagonal lines? In fact he had come to take it away
– and he did, tenderly, holding it as one would
a baby, a butterfly, a flabby ochre-imbued amoeba.
Adjudicator Mike Tilbury praised Tryst’s performance
for its polish and professionalism and said: "This
was acting of the highest standard – slick, comedic
and highly entertaining. Furniture removal even Pickford’s
could not equal."
Many critics have no time for Art.
They say it is overrated, that it’s one of these
slight self-congratulatory trifles that seems to win
critical praise in direct proportion to its lack of
ambition. That it takes that old chestnut, the play
of ideas…and takes it nowhere interesting. Three
men boring badly. Droning on gnomically about trajectories,
homeopathy, Carcassonne and systems. Trying to resolve
the age-old question “What is Art?”
Who cares? It’s all balls.
I will tell you this. The play, like the form itself,
is universal and all-encompassing. But more important
than that, it tells us one great universal truth of
which, until Saturday, I was wholly unaware.
There is, incredibly, more than one kind of white.