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Tuesday, 22 October, 2002, 15:08 GMT 16:08 UK
Art ends on high note
League of Gentlemen
Numerous celebrities have appeared in Art

Two years ago, three northern lads were desperate to star in a French play seemingly very removed from their everyday world.

Now their dream has come true. After six successful years in the West End, Art is being given the League of Gentlemen treatment in its final run, as the three stars from the BBC Two comedy take on the famous trio of roles.

It is the same withering tale of how the purchase of a very expensive, seemingly all-white painting drives a wedge in the friendship of three well-to-do Parisian men.

The production remains the same with the now-familiar minimalist décor and the three characters clad in different shades of grey, displaying little colour so as to not detract from the narrative.


Pemberton, normally the trio's strongest performer, well-known for his brilliant turn as Pauline in the League of Gentlemen, seems ill at ease in the role

But as the story unravels, one is left wondering what the contribution of the famous trio is to this quintessentially Parisian play.

The northern accents do not quite ring true in the sophisticated setting of a Paris apartment and often lead to flat performances, where one gets the feeling their brand of wit is not quite enough to portray Parisian conceit.

The strongest display by far comes from Mark Gatiss (Serge) - the eerie butcher in League of Gentlemen - as the tall, slightly effeminate doctor who acquires the painting, striking just the right balance of preciousness and acerbic wit.

The diminutive Reece Shearsmith is adequate in his portrayal of Yvan, the put-down-upon soon-to-be-married stationer caught in the middle of the feud between his two friends.

Uncomfortable

But the biggest disappointment comes from Steve Pemberton, who plays Marc, the critical compadre who takes Serge's indulgence for contemporary art as a personal slight.

Pemberton, normally the trio's strongest performer, well-known for his brilliant turn as Pauline in the League of Gentlemen, seems ill at ease in the role.

His northern persona cannot quite stretch far enough to inhabit the part of Marc, an angry homeopathic freak whose insecurity finds it hard to cope with his friend's show of independence over the painting.

Like the painting, the play does not remain colourless throughout however. One of the highlights is Shearsmith's 10-minute tirade about the difficulties of coping with the women in his life ahead of his impending wedding.

This is down to the sheer brilliance of Yasmina Reza's script which powers the story through and seems to erase the imperfection of the performances, leaving the audience basking in the illusion that they have witnessed a truly special work of art.

Art with the League of Gentlemen is on at the Whitehall Theatre in London, until 4 January.

See also:

17 Sep 02 | Entertainment
08 Mar 99 | Entertainment
31 Jul 01 | Entertainment
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