Friday, April 20, 2007

Vincent in Brixton

I love it when I go to see a play with no expectations and come home after the performance with a deeply satisfied feeling that I've just seen a genuinely brilliant piece of theatre.

Before this evening I knew little about the play called Vincent in Brixton other than it was about a young Vincent Van Gogh during an influential period in his life when he lived for a time in a boarding-house in London.

It may or may not be historically accurate, ( the program admits no one really knows what transpired between the inhabitants of 87 Hackford Rd, London, SW9) but the play's author, Nicholas C. Wright has said that in writing the script he was influenced by "an intriguing six month gap in Vincent's surviviing letters, and by the well-known tendency of young men writing home to be less than frank about their formative experiences."

It certainly was a performance which drew me in and engaged me completely. The actors were brilliant, especially the two leads (Aidan Maxted as an intense and socially awkward but endearingly eccentric Vincent, and Caroline Alexander as the widowed land-lady, Ursula Loyer).

To my surprise it was not a play about art--in 1874 Vincent had not yet begun to paint--instead it was a play about people : unlikely love, frustrated talents, self doubts and the ability to house in your heart both great joy and black depression at one and the same time..

Do you ever wonder about what the lives of famous people are like when you strip away what they are known for and examine the rest of their life? I recommend seeing Vincent in Brixton for a glimpse of that.

Thank-you to my mom for taking me out for another evening of brilliant theatre! I loved our seats, two rows from the front--close enough to the stage to feel like you're sitting in the same room as the people onstage. And most importantly in a play containing such raw emotion, to be close enough to see the facial expressions on the actors' faces.

By the way, I really do admire Vincent's art ( he signed his paintings as Vincent and I never can pronounce Van Gogh in the proper Dutch fashion). The Musee D'Orsay has some very fine pieces of his that I was privileged to see during my visit to Paris, and I was absolutely thrilled to eat lunch at the little restaurant in Arles that is so famous for its depiction in the painting of the Night Terrace Cafe.

His life story is ultimately a tragic one (ending in poverty and mental illness) and his work rarely sold during his life (even with the support of his brother Theo who was an art dealer). And yet, knowing how important his works are considered nowadays, it should give hope to all those artists out there living under-appreciated in their own times. But why must artists traditionally suffer so much? Why do they usually have to die before their paintings are suddenly worth a million bucks? It's just not fair.

And why does an actor as talented as Mr. Maxted in Vincent in Brixton still have to hold down a day job?


ivan said...

People tell me I write like Charles Bukowski, the rubby poet.

Then I look at Bukowski's life and say no way.

The alcohol, leading to diabetes--surgical amputation of arms and legs.

He still wanted to live.

There are times I thak god for my obscurity.


heartinsanfrancisco said...

What a wonderful post!

I am a former actor with occasional regrets, and I love the way you combined the experience of great theatre with ruminations about a life in art.

I followed the breadcrumbs back here after you visited my blog, and I'll definitely be back. You have a lot to say, all of it interesting to me.

Sienna said...

Spider! I thought you were basking in Italy!

I would love to see Vincent in Brixton, what a great play to enjoy...and as you say, behind the facade.

Vincent rocks.

I love his art, I also love this quote that is attributed to him:

"It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to, the feeling for things themselves, for reality is more important then the feeling for pictures."

A man at times so tortured but with this perspective on nature so true blue.

Have a great trip.


Charles Gramlich said...

The play sounds fascinating. Those tantalizing gaps in records are always worth considering. My friend, David Lanoue, wrote a book based on a long gap in the haiku journals of the poet Cup of Tea.

Pol* said...

very cool

Anonymous said...

Ciao Jen, I'm glad that we both enjoyed such a wonderful evening at the theatre.We'll just have to do it more often.Love,Mom

dondon009 said...

I've not seen or heard of this play, but now you have my interest since I already love his art. Time for research!

I have a brilliant spider weaving a web directly outside of my patio. Brilliant because said web is being woven from cactus to cactus..... which means, try to remove the web and get bloody pierced by the needles on the cacti. I'm simply going to enjoy it!

My folks live in New Brunswick, Canada where they recently had a foot of snow.... and here my roses are in bloom. Life is good.....


Jocelyn said...

How wonderfully this post is written--and so thoughtful. I've been an Van Gogh fan for 34 years, at least (and I'm only, ahem, 40). But you make me want to know more. Your excitement is infectious, Spidergirl!

Josie said...

Spider, what a fabulous post. I love Van Gogh. I think he had one of the most interesting lives of all the painters. I love that Theo Van Gogh's wife was named Johanna and after Theo died Johanna published the letters between Theo and Vincent. She also promoted Vincent's art.

I have been to the The Musee D'Orsay in Paris as well and it was wonderful. I remember rounding the corner and seeing the painting of his bedroom.

It must have been a wonderful play.


Marie Nadine said...

I would love to see that play...I just finished taking an entire art history course on Van Gogh...he actually only sold one painting during his life time, to the sister of Belgian artist, Eugene Boch. I think her name was Anna.
I was recently in NYC and saw his 'starry night' at the MOMA...after learning about his spiritual beliefs, his works become even more interesting. If you're a Van Gogh fan, you should definitely check out Gauguin!