Serge has bought a modern painting for a huge sum of money but is it Art or a "a piece of white shit?"

Art is a multi award winning play by French playwright Yasmina Reza  and probes questions of friendship and art., “Art is a play about relationships; says actor Robert Jarman who plays Marc in the comedy. "It’s about three friends who have a falling out, and who, through attacking each other, discover uncomfortable truths about themselves and their relationships."

"The conflict kicks-off when one friend, Serge, buys a piece of contemporary art – a white painting – which another friend, Marc,  detests and mocks. The third friend, Yvan, is the meat in the sandwich, trying (unsuccessfully) to placate all parties."

The play premiered in Paris in1994 and since then the English language translation has gone on to run on Broadway and the West End with huge success winning a Tony Award for best play.  The play (although translated into English) is written by a French playwright with, it could be said, fairly French sensibilities – could this be at all problematic in brining the nuance off the page? Not at all says Jarman who finds the French sensibilities somewhat of an enjoyable immersion. "I mean, it is hard to imagine anyone writing a play about three Aussie blokes getting together for the evening with plans of going out to dinner and the cinema, and falling into an argument over contemporary art," he says. "But here the three blokes come to the point of blows in their passionate defence of their views of art and life. The play works itself up into a tempest of Gallic passion, and that is enjoyable to play and remarkable to witness."

Jarman is joined in Art by Jeff Michel and John Xintavelonis who, along with Jarman,  formed Blue Cow Theatre Company in 2010. BCT is an artist-run company based in Hobart, Tasmania whose genesis lies in a threesome of out of work actors and Art. Explains Jarman:  "Tasmania is small and professional opportunities in the theatre are few.  One needs to be pretty self-sufficient, to have many irons in many fires, and to be a Jack of several trades.  Back in 2010, Jeff Michel, John Xintavelonis and I found that we each had a period of a couple of months during which we had no work. We had been toying with the idea of “putting on a show” together for some time – and now the time presented itself."

"Hobart – well, Tasmania generally – loves a musical, and we three have done our fair share as performers and/or directors. But we really wanted to do a play."

"We were mounting this co-operatively. We had to pay for the show ourselves, and of course cover any loss ourselves. So we needed something accessible and with a fairly broad appeal. We wanted something funny, but also with some meat, some substance. And we wanted something, well, sophisticated. Intelligent. We read a lot, considered many options, but finally settled on “Art”." 

Art has become a highly successful touring play for BCT. Jarman tells me the first production of Art was three years ago. The production was a resounding success, and it led to the permanent formation and on-going life of Blue Cow Theatre. Since then the company has staged five works, including contemporary international dramas and two premiere productions of new Tasmania works.

Jarman says the decision to tour the play was pretty simple. "It is an eminently tourable production, with a small cast of three plus two production personnel, and a compact, elegant set. Plus, and this really is the thing that sealed the deal – people wanted it! Presenters wanted it! So, we are very happy to remount and tour this show. It has proved popular with audiences and presenters, and it’s served as a good introduction to Blue Cow and the quality of our work."

BCT currently have three new works under commission, two by Tasmanian writers with international profiles. One of these will premiere later this year, and the other will open in April next year and will be BCT's first move to the main stage (and much larger audience capacity) of the Theatre Royal. BCT have productions in development for 2015 and 2016."

"Blue Cow has established a reputation for intelligent work and high production values," says Jarman. "We are in a position – and certainly this is what we are doing – to start to make a more positive and forward thinking contribution to the development of Tasmanian theatre. We are looking at making works that embrace both contemporary performance practices and the “big issues” for Tasmania."

"But – and this is crucial – the most basic principal informing our goals and programming choices is the development of Tasmanian artists. So we are running workshops this year for actors, and especially in developing skills to make actors useful contributors to creative development situations, and next year we will launch “The Cow Shed”, which is a playwrights’ development program."

Reza's play pits man against man and man against Art with unrelenting banter, and is very funny, but at it's core lies the potential for a very serious loss.

Jarman concedes that the audience will find it fun and funny!  "It is a bit of a slow-burn play. It gathers steam, gathers momentum, and by the end it fairly rockets along, careering from comedy to drama and back again in a quite reckless fashion. Audiences get drawn into the story – certainly our experience is that audience members tend to start rooting for one or other character. "

ART at Gasworks Arts Park:
Dates:  1 to 3 August 2013