Leading Article: Acting our age

AFTER FOUR years, over 1,000 performances, 10 different casts and the report that even Tom Cruise is applying to join the next change of actors, the play Art at London's Wyndhams Theatre could truly be said to be the Mousetrap of our times.

Only it isn't a polite whodunit in a genteel English house. Instead, it's an acerbic view by a Frenchwoman of the arrogance of the intellectual Parisian male and the peculiarities of his competitive friendships - as revealed in an argument over abstract painting.

So what does this tell us about the West End theatre, other than the fact that Sean Connery saw a winner in Paris and backed it for London, thus ensuring the Scots Nats never go broke? Should we conclude, as the tabloids do, that we all like laughing at modern art, or that a cast limited to three actors shows that male stars still have all the fun on the stage, if no longer the screen? Or is the lesson that friendship is now thought more interesting than love, in these days of the soap?

None of these, actually - just that a hit can never be predicted. Or, rather, that it takes a canny actor to spot one and a bunch of producers and critics to miss it.