VINCENT IN BRIXTON
by Nicholas Wright.
Theatre By The Lake (Studio) Lakeside CA12 5DJ In rep to 9 November 2013.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 017687 74411.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 August.
Production, which, like its subject, moves towards greatness.
In his 2002 play, Nicholas Wright explores the interfusion of skill and personality in artistic creation, showing young Vincent van Gogh, in London on business for a Dutch art house, with no sense of becoming a painter, or any sense of direction.
Except finding someone to love. Seeing young Eugenie Loyer leads him to rent a room in her mother Ursula’s Brixton home, where he finds she’s already attached to a fellow-lodger, decorator and would-be art student Sam.
It turns out Sam’s way will be the pram in the hallway. He gives up art to concentrate on providing for Eugenie and their child. Vincent has to see off the sister sent to keep him in order, and find his own attachment, with Eugenie’s mother.
The unfreezing of Ursula Loyer is important to the play, for it is their close relation that leads her, with the pent-up experience of 15 years’ viduity and wearing mourning black, to push him towards artistic greatness.
Her anger does it, after he’s shown her a fine drawing of trees, but one lacking any sense of the anger he separately tells her he was feeling while working on it. The busy mother, progressively minded, who’s seen much of her life pass in surviving (a lot of cooking and other household work goes on), gives direction to purposeless youth.
It’s through everyday objects the final transformation comes, with a forceful dramatic energy which belies the external quiet. And it’s here Stefan Escreet’s Keswick revival moves from being merely good – generally the male side is the more deeply etched – to become throat-catchingly moving
As the room quietens, Sam and Eugenie talk daily talk at each other across the other two. In a casual gesture Sam removes his newspaper, which has been keeping the table clean from Vincent’s boots. He replaces these slightly differently. Something about this catches Vincent’s eye. He moves them again, slightly, then slowly reaches for a school exercise-book and, as Ursula lovingly reaches gently across to touch his arm, infused with his love, he starts a picture that will take him into history. Magical.
Ursula Loyer: Janine Birkett.
Sam Plowman: Gareth Cassidy.
Anna van Gogh: Laura Darrall.
Eugenie Loyer: Isabella Marshall.
Vincent van Gogh: Peter McGovern.
Director: Stefan Escreet.
Designer/Costume: Elizabeth Wright.
Lighting: Jo Dawson.
Sound: Andrew J Lindsay.
Dialect coach: Charmian Hoare.