As soon as I discovered that Yasmina Reza's award-winning play Art had been released for amateur performance, I wanted OTTC to be one of the first groups to stage it, and I wanted to direct it.
It's not a play you can take or leave – it's a full-on, viciously funny, achingly poignant and, above all, impressively perceptive piece of theatre.
When I saw the touring production in 2005 it blew me away! I thought the dialogue was outstanding and the use of the white painting as the catalyst that sent sparks flying in the relationship between the three characters was inspired. What an incredible opportunity for three actors! Parts like those just don't come along every day. What an entertaining and thought-provoking play for an OTTC audience to savour!
So, having made the dream a reality, how does it feel post-production?
Well, it certainly ticked all the right boxes with those who saw it. I received messages from people who said they'd seen professional productions and thought ours was just as good, if not better. (In fact, Ros Hollands, in her review in the Swindon Advertiser, said she thought she liked it even more because, set in the intimate surroundings of the Arts Centre, the subtle word-play between the characters was so much more effectively observed in their facial expressions than on a larger stage.
I thought the cast and crew were outstanding in their energy, enthusiasm and commitment. The performances, incredibly revealing, and yet often impressively subtle when required, were complemented by superbly atmospheric lighting and toe-tapping sound.
Francesco Gregorace of the Croft Gallery was kind enough to supply us with not one, but two, white paintings, so that Lance could demonstrate his Lowry skier, which will no doubt be hanging in Tate Modern by the time the dressing rooms are cleared!
The only downside was our audience figures, which were a tad disappointing. Considering the number of people who said they knew the play and wished they'd seen it I think we should have had bigger houses. But, it certainly went down a storm, nevertheless.
Those who missed it missed a real gem. Another first for OTTC and another example of why we're Swindon's leading drama company. We perform plays that others don't have the courage or insight to tackle.
I'm proud of everyone who took part in this production. A big thank-you to you all.
Wendy Vickery, Director
The following review appeared in the Swindon Advertiser (www.thisiswiltshire.co.uk) on 12 September 2006. (The photo used on this page was taken by Jennifer Burton and is used, along with Ros Hollands' review, with the kind permission of the Swindon Advertiser.):
Blank Canvas Causes A Stir
Old Town Theatre Company is one of the first amateur companies in the country to attempt Yasmina Reza's award-winning play 'Art'.
Director Wendy Vickery said, "This complex, viciously funny, and at times, disturbing play touches a nerve we can all recognise."
It is a cleverly written play, spanning many emotions. It's all about a completely white canvas bought for an extraordinary fee by Serge, played superbly by Peter Edge-Partington.
Peter is a natural on stage, with a wonderful easy-listening voice and beautiful diction. Lance Hodges played Marc, and the third member of the cast, Paul Saunders, completely stole the show with a superb display of acting. He had the facial expression and pathos and all the other emotions synonymous with the part.
It's not very often I can sit through a whole production and find nothing negative to say. This was one such evening. Even down to the manly leather sofa and simple metal structures depicting the guys' different living accommodation.
This made it an hour and a half of dynamic acting with no break. There isn't much more to say really, except that in the intimate atmosphere of the Arts Centre I'm sure I enjoyed this more than the profressional production.
Perhaps that's because I felt closer to the action and could actually see the expressions on the faces of the actors more clearly.
Once again OTTC triumphed due to great casting, excellent directing, lighting, scenery and sound.
All the things made for a truly professional attitude to their work, and ultimately a memorable production.