Vincent in Bristol

Nicholas Wright
Library Theatre, Manchester
(2004)

Vincent van Gogh was an artistic genius who had a fascinating, stormy life. However Nicholas Wright has chosen to dramatise one of the least exciting episodes in his life for this play. The young Vincent van Gogh did live in London for a while when he worked at the London offices of an international art dealer, and there are some sparse details about a time when he lodged with the Loyer family in Brixton and declared his love for his landlady's daughter. Wright has filled in the gaps to create his own version of this episode in the great painter's life story.

The play is quite static and very little actually happens apart from people sitting around in a kitchen talking. There are some very funny moments, but there are also quite a few rather dull sections. None of this appears to be the fault of the production which puts over the play well. Hannah Watkins as the landlady's daughter Eugenie, Christopher Pizzey as the other lodger Sam, and Olivia Darnley as Vincent's sister Anna, all create lively, human and often funny characters that contrast sharply with the gloomy lead characters of Vincent (Gus Gallagher) and Mrs Loyer (Sheila Ruskin), although these have some genuinely funny moments too. Credit must be given to the stage management for creating a working kitchen on this tiny stage, complete with running water in the sink - and outside the door at one point when it was raining - and working cooking facilities that waft some appetising smells into the auditorium. Paul Gregory's sound design makes some nice use of music at certain moments of the play

This is quite a good production of a play that has some nice moments and some real humour but which overall is not very exciting.

"Vincent in Brixton" runs until 15th October, 2004

Reviewer: David Chadderton