A 90 minute trundle through the domestic lives of three friends while discussing the merits of modern art sounded like a pleasant way to spend an evening, especially as the play was only 90 minutes long without an interval.

Throw in an inspired cast from Nigel Havers and Stephen Tomkinson to Denis Lawson and it was a given.

But that would be to vastly underestimate both the acting prowess and biting script of ART, which snatches you up in its teeth from the word go, and refuses to put you down until the dying gasps of the last curtain call, if anything, increasing its pace with each new revelation.

We watched the story unfold through cracks in our fingers while physically groaning, at times laughing, unexpected guffaws echoing around The Oxford Playhouse. But mainly we held on for dear life as what initially seemed like an innocuous plot line gathered pace and turned out to be about anything but art.

Instead it was about men and friendship, pretension and age, about money and marriage, our ability to hurt the ones we love, the need to conceal, hide and gloat. It was about growing up, about rage and impotence, jealousy and arrogance, condescension, and history.

In other words it was about all of us, and as these three dignified men and their 30 year friendship slowly denigrated into a debate about far more than the merits of Constructivism, it held a mirror up to us all.

The insults though! It was like sitting in a restaurant and hearing a couple arguing ferociously on the next table, unable to tear yourself away, as the abuse escalates. It was both voyeuristic and invasive, private, intimate and utterly compelling.

But do English men really talk and act like that? Without a whiff of sports commentary, a hint of a drink and far too much self evaluation? One of them went to a shrink twice a week for goodness sake. And they were so damned suave.

I realised the answer on discovering that ART was written by Yasmin Raza in French and translated into English for the West End in 1996.

Either way a galloping, intelligent, witty, must see, whipper-snapper of a play. On until Saturday.

01865 305305 or oxfordplayhouse.com