Based on the true facts of painter Vincent Van Gogh's early life in London in the 19th century, Vincent in Brixton concerns the transforming effect of love, sex and artistic adventure. While working for the London branch of an international firm of art dealers, the young Van Gogh rents a room in the Brixton house of an English widow with whom he strikes up a relationship.
After receiving its world premiere at the NT Cottesloe in May 2002, Vincent in Brixton had a three-month autumn season at the West End's Wyndham's Theatre. Clare Higgins, playing widow Ursula Loyer, scooped a hat trick of Best Actress honours at the Evening Standard, Critics Circle and Olivier awards. Her Van Gogh co-star, the Dutch actor Jochum ten Haaf, was nominated for numerous newcomer prizes, including the Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers' Choice Award for London Newcomer of the Year. The pair will once again reprise their roles in the West End.
After winning the 2003 Olivier for Best New Play Vincent in Brixton opened on Broadway. But despite two Tony Award nominations - for Best Play and again for Best Actress - the New York production closed on 4 May 2003 after two months.
Wright and Eyre, who was the National's literary manager during Eyre's reign ten-year reign there as artistic director, collaborated on the book Changing Stages, an overview of 20th-century theatre that became the basis for Eyre's BBC television documentary series of the same name. Wright's other playwriting credits include Cressida, Mrs Klein and The Desert Air, as well as adaptations of Wedekind's Lulu, Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman and Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author.
Following its West End comeback season, Vincent in Brixton is due to embark on a UK regional tour in the autumn. Currently at London's Playhouse, Michael Blakemore's production of Three Sisters - now starring Susannah Harker instead of Kristin Scott Thomas as Masha - finishes its extended run on 29 June 2003.
- by Terri Paddock