Brixton is not somewhere that you may associate with Vincent Van Gogh. But the Dutch artist spent three years of his life in SW9 in the 1870's. Nicholas Wright obviously intrigued by this fact wrote Vincent In Brixton which has since wowed audiences in London, America and on a tour of the UK. Roger Haines directs this in house production at the Library Theatre.
Vincent Van Gogh (Gus Gallagher) arrives in Brixton at the house Ursula Loyer (Shelia Ruskin) a depressed and lonely widow. He immediately declares his love for her daughter Eugenie (Hannah Watkins). Soon his attention turns to Ursula. He manages to tap into this lonely lady's psyche and her desire to love again. The virginal Van Gogh comes of age but disappears leaving the widow heartbroken and unable to tell anyone about her liaison with the soon to be iconic artist.
The attention to detail in this beautiful play is astounding. Ruskin delivers an understated and honed performance as the fragile Ursula. The scenes where she cooks Sunday lunch are delightful. You can smell the food and revel in Ursula's life of domesticity, which masks her loneliness. Gallagher is wonderful as the great artist. He conveys his naivety and brashness with ease. The two leads have great chemistry and sparks fly when they are together. You can see why these two troubled souls find each other attractive.
Christopher Pizzey delights as Sam, the lodger as does Olivia Darnley in the small but pivotal role of Anna, Vincent's bossy sister. Watkins like Ruskin cooks up a storm but also conveys her character’s love for her mother through every nuance of her body language, even when she is doing something simple like making tea.
Roger Haines direction is marvellous. He does allow scenes to have further resonance by pausing the action where necessary, thus allowing the audience to have lingering memories of what has gone before rather than rushing to the climax.
Judith Croft's wonderful set is so homely and warm that you can understand why Van Gogh was attracted to the house and the secrets within it. Nick Richings moody lighting beautifully highlights the effect that the young artist's arrival has on the household.
This is delightful production which, although slow at times, never fails to engage the audience. Just like a Van Gogh, this play will have an everlasting effect on all those that see it.
- Glenn Meads