Edinburgh Fringe 2019
We are asked to come to a table and draw for 2 minutes without thinking, boy our guide, Vincent. From there he draws the man sitting in front of him, takes us on a journey round the philosophy of Van Gogh, the relationships he had with his pastor father, his brother Theo, and his equal in art, Paul Gaugin. He takes us through many stories of Van Gogh including the way he practiced as a priest, how he got criticised for doing that, living with a prostitute, how he got criticised for doing that, how he divided a room like Moses when he came to see his father, how his father tried to bribe him, the story of his death, his ear and how as a mentally ill embarrassment people saw him. It ends with a man. It ends with love.
The drawing collectively around his desk is to free us from the constraints around ourselves. Vincent channels the creativity in the room along with the inner peace and calm that he exudes as he starts the narrative. It could be a number of narratives because he has very rich material.
The script may meander and depend upon how he feels on that day but what is astonishing is the performance. It is exceptional. That degree of connection with a character is often rare and very often you feel the electricity when you are amongst it. There is a true artist here and it aint Van Gogh.
It’s astonishing and when DeForest drops the accent and speaks in his own natural accent I have to lift my jaw from the floor. He is utterly convincing. The hesitancy, the thinking on his feet, the naivete that he displays even when he talks of his own death as Van Gogh is awe inspiring.
The conceit of it being an adult art type class with an audience that has no artifice to struggle through, no props or hidden objects to wade past and no trickery to see past adds to that. We have no curtains, lights or props to enhance the raw performance. DeForest needs none of that because his knowledge of the subject and the way in which he channels that energy through his drawing and our attention is all the spark required.
When he finished his drawing and gave it to the man across from him you really felt that it was a privilege. The emotion that causes him to break down at the end is real. The emotion authentic and the love he feels for doing what he does, the cost to his pocket but the increasing humanity of himself is just beautiful to see and to be a part of.
He spoke of his attempt to break the world record of drawing portraits and it is another highlight of the afternoon. I happened upon this because of missing another piece of theatre and serendipity did me a favour today. I wish DeForest well in his attempt to break a record, but I hope he returns with this again, and again, and again. It is pure theatrical gold.