PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 April, 2010, 12:00am

HK Theatre Association
Until Sat, 7.45pm, also Sat, 3pm
McAulay Studio, Hong Kong Arts Centre

Since its 1995 world premiere in Paris, French playwright Yasmina Reza's 'Art' has been performed in various parts of the world and in more than 30 languages. But even though Hong Kong has already been treated to Cantonese-language performances of this dark comedy about three long-time friends and a very expensive painting that one of them buys, the Hong Kong Theatre Association's French founder-artistic director, Emilie Guillot, says that her company's latest production represents the first time that this play is being performed in English in this city.

While working on the production - which stars (above from left) American Howard Paley, Englishman Oliver Williams and Canadian Brad Powers - its director-producer found differences between the translated-into-English and original French versions of 'Art'.

For while translator Christopher Hampton retained the original's Paris setting and characters' French names of Serge, Marc and Yvan, he made enough changes to make her feel 'I have found new colours in the English version that I missed in the French version. Every now and then, I will be surprised that the translation uses a particular expression.' She cites a line that Yvan utters near the end to the effect that 'I will have to help Marc if this is the last thing I do'.

'In the French version, he doesn't say 'the last thing I do',' she notes - and the inclusion of five extra words makes the character's declaration 'sound more dramatic in English'. Regardless of the language she's encountered in this play, Guillot has 'found it deeply emotional and very powerful'. For although, at one level, it's about how one perceives art (and one painting in particular), it is also concerned with how views and values can change over the years and threaten previously strong relationships.

Guillot says that she has been in a situation similar to the one depicted in the play and feels that everyone will have been, too. Hence her feeling that 'it's very realistic. I've often told my friends [even] if you never go to the theatre, it's one of the plays you should see because I believe people will be able to relate to it.'

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