Tuesday, May 12, 2009

POW! (Play Of The Week)

VINCENT IN BRIXTON
by Nicholas Wright

INVENTING VAN GOGH
by Steven Dietz

It is nothing new to say that Vincent van Gogh was a complex, greatly troubled man. But these two plays look deep into Van Gogh at two different stages and together compliment, enrich, and bring to life Vincent, the human.

Vincent in Brixton by British playwright Nicholas Wright focuses on Vincent before he drew his first sketch. It depicts a young man, someone full of life yet struggling to find his way and to walk the artist's path. While living in a boarding house, Vincent develops a relationship with a troubled older woman named Ursula. Wright understands that the most important aspect of a relationship between people, or even painter and art, is the shared experience of the soul. In Vincent in Brixton, he uses Van Gogh’s experiences with Ursula to illustrate this point; it is she who inspires Vincent to live and to paint with passion.

In the preface of Inventing Van Gogh, American playwright Steven Dietz quotes Van Gogh himself: "Exaggerate the essential; leave the obvious vague." Dietz then applies this idea to the structure and setting of the play, which shifts fluidly between the 1880s – the later years of Van Gogh’s life - and the present day - where a modern painter struggles to forge a copy of the master’s final self-portrait. Dietz's Van Gogh takes Wright's depiction to the next level: his Van Gogh is dramatically troubled, bursting at the seams, and begging for life to come off of the page. In Inventing Van Gogh, both the artist’s contemporaries and present-day art enthusiasts agree: Van Gogh, a man obsessed with painting his own image, was searching for some greater connection to the soul.

Taken together, these plays have made me obsessed with Vincent Van Gogh. Inventing Van Gogh is incredibly theatrical and dramatic, especially how Dietz handles the suicide (I'll say no more). Vincent in Brixton is beautifully sensual and touching. Both have left me craving more, wanting to fully understand the man who created a unique form of painting. Though these portraits indicate how hard it might be to obtain that goal, I have not been as inspired from reading a play recently as I have by these two.

Cast: Vincent in Brixton: 2 M, 3 W. Inventing Van Gogh: 4 M, 1 W.

Scenes/Monologues: Wonderful scenes and monologues in both plays!

Recommended by: Abi.

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