Nicholas Wright's award-winning play offers us a portrait of the young Vincent van Gogh (Finn
den Hertog) as a ruthless go-getter, who knows he is sublimely talented and uses that power to obtain what he wants, especially
where women are concerned.
He lodges with Ursula (Maggie
Dolan), a widowed teacher, and her daughter Eugenie (Melody Grove); and falls in love with both of them. Yet we remain
sceptical as to the true nature of his love; maybe he is just using them so as to secure favors, as well as the right to stay
On the other hand Vincent manages to penetrate beneath the surface
of English emotional respectability to discover the guilty secrets lurking beneath; the true feelings of Eugenie, her relationship
to painter-cum-decorator Sam (Justin Salinger), and her view of what public life should be. Even when Vincent's sister
Anna (Maggie Service) comes to Britain, ostensibly to take Vincent away to Paris on his father's wishes, Vincent's power within
the household remains undiminished.
As portrayed by den Hertog,
Vincent is both na´ve and tactless yet arrogant, often taking his English hosts for granted. If self-centeredness
is the wellspring of artistic genius, he possesses it in shards. He welcomes the life of domesticity, willingly peeling
the potatoes and digging the garden; but maintains a withering disdain towards Sam.
The play offers a vivid portrait of an artist as a young man who hitherto had done nothing
to confirm his status; this is probably why he ends up venting his frustrations on those willing enough to offer him shelter.