Yasmina Reza is the queen of comedy writing, her play “Art” is now in it’s sixth year in the West End, and whilst it is unlikely that Life x3 will enjoy the same success, this is it’s second West End outing in less then two years. Why is she so popular? It must surely be because of her dry observation of human relationships. In her comedies there are no bazaar events or exaggerated eccentricities to her characters, instead one sees the foibles and strains of common human relationships, non-so common as in Life x 3.
Henri (David Haig), and his wife Sonia (Belinda Lang) are ‘enjoying’ an evening at home. Or at least they would be if not for the constant demands of their six year-old son, Anton. Should he be allowed a biscuit in bed? Sonia thinks not, Henri disagrees. This simple request reveals every parent’s anxiety and contention about child rearing: are we being too strict or too lax? Anton clearly has the upper hand in this ceaseless squabble between parents!
In to this domestic mixture arrive Hubert (David Yelland), and his wife Ines (Serena Evans) who turn up for a dinner party a day earlier then they had been expected. Henri believes that Hubert holds the key to his future promotion and so adopts an obsequious tone of acquiescence towards Hubert’s bullish behaviour. Sonia, despising this weakness in her husband gladly diminishes Hubert’s ego by pointing out his perverse pleasure in demoralising her husband. Hubert, who is not only a conceited egotist but also a misogynist, is clearly outwitted by Sonia and so belittles his helpless wife Ines instead.
After presenting the characters in the first sketch, we are once again returned to the beginning of the same scene in the second and third sketch. Henri and Sonia are still settling Anton down for the evening and Hubert and Ine’s still arrive a day earlier then expected for dinner. However, we now see slightly different reactions to the same events. Is Henri as toady as he first appeared; does Sonia dislike Hubert as venomously as we once believed; and is Ines as helpless as initially presented?
Whilst the far from happy domestic scene that Yasmina paints is one we can all at times recognise, though usually without the hilarity and amusement that is so beautifully woven into this script, she also exposes the existential anguish of life. Henri is an astrophysicist whose career and promotion depends upon his thesis about some obscure theory about galaxies, theories which even Henri and Hubert regard as ultimately meaningless. Are our own lives equally meaningless considering the vastness of the universe? Dark, invisible matter fills the galaxies and astrophysicists spend their life trying to comprehend it. Similarly invisible matter runs though out our relationships with cruel and sometimes devastating effects. The unsaid word, a missed opportunity, the flirtatious glance ignored and we are lost in a sea of alternative possibilities. Would any of these missed opportunities prove to be more satisfying?
The first scene is an exceptional and funny piece of writing, however the next two scenes do not compare in quality. It is this chronological flow from excellence too mediocre that prevents this comedy from leaving a lasting impression.
The entire cast give excellent performances, but for me there is no doubt that the star of the show is Belinda Lang as Sonia. She oscillates between politeness and indignation with just a flick of her head. A truly magical performance.
What other critics had to say.....
NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Pleasurable but pretentious comedy" CHARLES SPENCER for DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "An engaging boulevard comedy with ideas above its station." LYNN GARDNER for THE GUARDIAN says, "Mildly amusing." SARAH HEMMING for THE FINANCIAL TIMES says" It is ingeniously constructed, wickedly perceptive of social interaction..." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, "Yasmina Reza will, I suspect, always be a dramatist who merits revival."
External links to full reviews from newspapers