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Olives Oil Tryst's Triumph

Legendary theatre critic Tristan Fabriani (pictured) was at the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon for Tryst’s award-winning performance of Art in the British Finals. We asked him to give us his thoughts on our show. Candid, controversial, curmudgeonly – his views are always unbelievable.

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 first aid.

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 incoherent.

In that moment, in my eyes at least, Tryst became British champions.

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."

Most insightful.

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. - Tryst Theatre is a registered Scottish charity, No SC003303