Being given the opportunity to direct ‘Art’ is, says Martin Hutson, a bit of a dream come true. Having visited Beverley’s East Riding Theatre to see ‘Kiss Me’ being rehearsed and ‘Good People’ being staged he has been ‘blown away’ by the space and the groundbreaking productions.
‘Art’ is a mid-90’s comedy by French-writer Yasmina Reza, translated into English by Christopher Hampton. It premiered in Paris in 1994, ran in London from 1996 and then went onto Broadway from 1998. The 1990’s was a time when young artists came to the fore - writers such as Sarah Kane and Mark Ravenhill spring to mind as well as Damien Hurst and Tracey Emin. They provoked a response with their energy and pushed boundaries which created discussion and division. And this play
does the same; on the surface it is a play about a piece of art but underneath it exposes emotional conflict and puts friendships to the test.
The original London production famously starred Tom Courtney, Ken Stott and Albert Finney, men in their late 50’s/early 60’s, which added a further layer of tension to the play. “As we age”, said Martin, “we approach a time of finite choices. If friendships are broken in later years, there are fewer opportunities to create more, so losing friends can be harmful. This
realisation underpins the weight of the play - which is why I was delighted when casting resulted in three mature men being awarded the roles of Serge, Marc and Yvan. The fact that they are all local Beverley favourites and friends in real life makes the casting extra special, the three being Richard Avery, Malcolm Tomlinson and Clive Kneller.” Martin trained at LAMDA. His career has included acting on stage, most recently with the Royal Shakespeare Company in ‘Julius Caesar’ as Cassius and in ‘Titus Andronicus’ as Saterninus; appearing in television programmes - did you see him in ‘The Honorable Woman’ as MI6 agent Max Boorman or spot him in ‘Doctors’, ‘Casualty’ or ‘Midsummer Murders’? - and directing.
He also helped set up the Norwich Theatre Royal Actors Company where he became Associate Director and where he directed ‘Blackbird’ amongst many other plays. He has been nominated twice for the Ian Charleson Award (which recognises the best classical stage performances for actors under 30) in 2000 when he lost out to David Oyewolo and in 2001 when Claire Price won.
But back to ‘Art’. As with any piece of art, whether it be a painting, sculpture, poem or a play, everyone has an opinion. Opinions can be particularly polarising when considering modern art! As Martin said: “People of that time thought the Impressionists were producing vulgar, childish nonsense, yet people who don’t like Tracey Emin, for example, probably
cling to the Impressionists! The trump card with modern art is undoubtedly Antony Gormley who we have taken to our hearts because his interpretation of the human form reflects us. Yet the Angel of the North, for example, is just a copy of a body on a great scale and the figures at Crosby Beach looking out to sea are modelled on him. Art has to speak to us. That’s the beauty of the play ‘Art’ - it does!”
So how did Martin come to be directing at East Riding Theatre in Beverley? Martin has the same agent as ERT’s Artistic Director Adrian Rawlins and he was the catalyst, not only for suggesting Martin as director but for recommending the three actors, too. When Martin first turned up, he felt like a cuckoo in the nest! But with only 3 weeks rehearsal, it is a major benefit for a director to be able to ‘push’ the actors, which is the case with Richard, Malcolm and Clive. Martin has worked with
Clive in the past and reconnecting with him has been a great pleasure and has enhanced the joy of working in Beverley at East Riding Theatre.
Does Martin prefer acting or directing? “Directing gives choices.”, said Martin, “As an actor you are told what to do as you are
in a production which has been created by someone else; as a director you can sculpt the final version with your own interpretation of the demands you feel are made by the play. This production of ‘Art’ will be like no other version you have ever seen. I am bringing in a more French feel and the lighting effects which can be created with the new lighting rig will help to ‘pull’ people in from the side and aisles. As a director you can let your imagination spiral!”
There are many people in the local area who are very excited about ‘Art’, which has a short 3½ week run. It is a huge coup that this modern comedy classic which has won Olivier, Tony, Evening Standard and Moliere Awards is being staged here in Beverley.
It is even more exciting that Martin Hutson is directing Richard Avery, Martin Tomlinson and Clive Kneller! Do get your tickets soon - this is NOT to be missed!
‘Art’ by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton and directed by Martin Hutson runs from Thursday 27th September to Sunday 20th October at 7.30pm most evening with selected afternoon matinees at 2.30pm.
Bookings can be made via the website: www.eastridingtheatre.co.uk, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org, by telephone: 01482 874050 or in person Tuesday - Saturday 10am - 4pm or from 6.30pm on performance evenings.