Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Based upon the letters of Vincent and Theo and Adeline Ravoux’s memoirs of Vincent’s stay in Auvers-sur-Oise, DeForest sets the record straight on a true artist’s personal struggle for humanity while creating art.
To be in the presence of the painter Vincent Van Gogh is a special experience indeed, and there is an opportunity to meet him – or rather, to meet Walter DeForest playing him.
Appropriately, Vincent is surrounded by art materials, in a small studio space, and everyone who wants to can try their hand as he passes paper and pencils out to his visitors. Already he is Van Gogh, speaking like him with a distinctive and very consistent accent. “The technique has to come from the heart,” he tells us looking at our faces, to make sure we heard this gem of wisdom. “No judgements” he says as he encourages people to start drawing!
DeForest improvises ad lib comments as things happen, always ready to accommodate everyone’s needs. He draws quickly because, he tells us, when the sun goes down there is no light to pack up his materials.
DeForest is an actor playing a well-known character telling stories based on his research about the Dutch painter. Even aficionados of art may learn new details about Van Gogh or his point of view to different topics. Whether you know much or little about the famous painter seeing him brought to life is fascinating and a fun experience! DeForest’s text is well crafted and he paints through a lot of the show as he imparts little details about Van Gogh.
We hear about his father, brother, and being eighteen years old in London. DeForest as Vincent is comfortable, uses humour and tells us his favourite colour. Somehow DeForest gets under the skin of Van Gogh who regales us with anecdotes or short natural dialogue as he paints continuously.
DeForest does a realistic job of infusing several emotional or strident moments when he speaks to us directly and intensely. DeForest has a strong voice for the dramatic tone he speaks with for most of the performance, although he uses soft volumes when confiding is us. DeForest’s arm gestures, eye contact and facial expressions are very effective.
The piece is well crafted and performed. Several times the text refers to people we have heard of such as Dr. Gachet as well as places he has visited or stayed at that are familiar to Van Gogh.
An interesting performance technique that DeForest uses is to speak as if recalling moments from Vincent’s life, as he is chatting to us, which makes everything more personal. This performance is beautiful, sad, true, fascinating and entertaining. Recommended!