‘Vincent – His Quest to Love and Be Loved’ Paints Vincent Van Gogh In A New Light: Review

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Image credit: Harry Lock

Content warning: this review contains references to suicide. If you require support, please contact the Samaritans through their website, or on 116 123.

★★★★✰

Wela Kapela Productions’ Vincent – His Quest To Love And Be Loved is a cabaret performance that takes us through the highs and lows of Vincent Van Gogh’s love life. While we all know of his paintings, most of us know little about his personal life, but over the course of 50 minutes, narrator Daniel Anderson guides us through his life, starting in his early twenties and finishing with his tragic suicide at the age of 37.

Anderson is a great narrator. He immerses us into the performance straight away and looks each audience member in the eyes throughout the show. During the songs, he transforms into Vincent, attacking each number with passion and ferocity. His voice is powerful and rich, and the varied programme of songs allows him to fully demonstrate his talent. At times, his microphone drops out during the dialogue, but thanks to the small venue, it does not impact the quality of the performance. Combined with Germaine Gamiet’s accompaniment on the piano, the production excels both musically, and in its narrative.

Vincent has a habit of falling for women who are unavailable, pining after his recently separated landlady and divorced cousin despite their obvious lack of interest. When he does finally find someone who loves him back, rumours spread that he only loves her for her money, which causes her to attempt suicide. Amidst this, Vincent struggles to find his place in life. He finds it hard to make friends, only maintaining a bond with his brother Theo, and he moves in and out of his family home due to arguments with his parents. Prior to discovering art, he has an unsuccessful ministerial career, and struggles with feelings of failure and inadequacy. The issues he encounters are similar to those that twenty-something-year-olds face now, which makes the production more relatable.

The Studio in theSpaceTriplex is small, but Wela Kapela Productions make full use of the space. Some of Van Gogh’s most well-known paintings are projected onto the ceiling. They are used to mark where we are in the timeline: for example, we see the famous Sunflowers as Anderson recounts the story of Vincent painting multiple versions to impress his friend Gauguin. There is a writing desk near the back of the set which Anderson occasionally sits behind but it is not necessary; his storytelling is enough to immerse us in the narrative.

Tormented by the failures he has suffered, Vincent sadly attempts suicide by shooting himself in the stomach. As Theo sits by him in his final days, he promises to open an art exhibition to display his paintings. When Vincent slowly passes, ‘The Starry Night’ gently swirls on the ceiling above them, and Anderson sings ‘Vincent’ by Don McLean. It’s a touching tribute, and the perfect way to close the performance.

Vincent – His Quest To Love And Be Loved will be performed at theSpaceTriplex – Studio on 12 August at 2:05pm as part of Edinburgh Fringe.

Words by Ellen Leslie


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