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When Artistic Disciplines Combine: Andrew O’Connell on Company O’s upcoming production ‘Art’

Company O is departing from the traditional theatre auditorium with their upcoming production of Art by Yasmin Reza.

The independent theatre company, established in 2012, will be staging this award-winning comedy in the Holmes à Court Gallery. A show about art performed in a venue surrounded by art certainly sounds like an evening at the theatre that differs from the norm, to learn more we spoke with performer Andrew O’Connell. 

Art by Yasmina Reza is a play thats collected many awards, including an Olivier Award for Best New Comedy, but for those unfamiliar with the play- whats it about?

Three friends argue about a white painting! ‘Serge’ has bought an almost entirely white painting, much to the chagrin of his friend, Marc. Their friend Ivan tries to keep them from arguing about the painting but he only makes things worse!

Essentially, a white painting shakes a 15-year friendship to the core! A very funny but also very touching story about how three friends are outgrowing each other and will have to find new ways of relating to each other, or end the friendship forever. Will they work things out? You’ll have to come and see!

Whats your personal connection to this piece?

I was first told about this play years ago by a fellow actor who had seen a production of it. I was intrigued by how three friends could get into such an argument about a white painting, and why one of them had even bought a white painting in the first place! Well, I bought the play for myself and let’s just say that the only time I’ve ever missed my train stop was the time I was reading this play – I was so engrossed in it I had literally forgotten where I was! After that, I knew I had to be part of an “Art” production one day, preferably as an actor, and preferably as ‘Marc’, who I related to for reasons too complex and too convoluted to go into here!

Art is presented by Company O

Are there any challenges working with this particular piece?

One of the initial challenges was where to find the action in the scenes as a first glance of the play seems to reveal not much more than a verbal exchange among the characters. Another challenge was to really differentiate the characters, which starts with good casting but needs to continue with character development in rehearsals. Yet another challenge was the monologues directed at the audience – we needed to decide whether they were going to be reflections made by the characters or appeals to the audience. And lastly, the painting – we had to decide whether we were going to use a blank canvas as the white painting, or an actual white painting painted by an artist. Well, you’ll have to come and see what decisions we made!

What can you tell us about the team of cast and creatives working on this piece?

The cast includes myself (Andrew O’Connell), Nigel Goodwin, and Jason Robert Lester, we are all serious (and funny!) actors on the Perth theatre scene. I’m a playwright and theatre director, with three world premieres of my plays here in Perth. Nigel and Jason, besides being actors, are both experienced filmmakers! We have also been very fortunate to secure musician Krispin Maesalu, who will be treating us to something very special on the Cor Anglais (English horn)!

Youre in a perfect location, performing in the Holmes à Court Gallery. How do you describe the experience working in this space?

We’re surrounded by art in the gallery so it’s the perfect context for a play about art, called “Art”, and which, among other things, fiercely debates art! We’re thrilled to have received the support and encouragement of Janet Holmes à Court (AC) and other staff of the gallery. Being able to work in this space validates us not only as actors but as artists. The juxtaposition of two art forms – visual art and theatre – should be a very interesting and enriching one!

Art presented by Company O is on at the Holmes à Court Gallery @ no.10 from September 29 to October 2.