One of the most notable artists of my childhood. I remember in primary school the description of Van Gogh falling in love with a prostitute and cutting off his ear to give it as a gift. Then seeing his paintings and they were so different to everything else, surreal intricacy in the brush strokes, vibrant, unique. Unconventional, original, his approach to painting was refreshing. There was no talk of money or commercial success, just an appreciation for the art-work. Years later I gained insight into his struggles, lifestyle and recognition after his death.
It was Valentines Day and I found myself alone in Amsterdam, in a simple hostel room, not far removed from one of Van Gogh’s paintings. It was here that I began writing “Van Gogh on the Beach” and several poems for “Amsterdam”, where I include more background to the writing of this story.
When writing this play I tried to remain authentic to the creative characteristics of Van Gogh as I perceive them, whilst incorporating a more contemporary/ mythical portrayal of him as a man.
Set in 1980’s Los Angeles, I depict the artistic disciplines of poets, dancers and painters as divisive tools, in a parallel portrayal of the street gang culture that is so prominent with that region. Amidst this, the dynamic nature of romance, love and creativity still exist among the concentrated social constraints.
“Pure”, dedicated artists were Angels who did not age, hence the sub-title “Lost Angels”. Van Gogh played by Sam Burnard, was a prominent street-wise Angel, multi-disciplined and the lead character, I played a cameo role as his friend Picasso, also an Angel. Van Gogh’s love interest “Sien” was a talented dancer and lady of the night who chose not to follow the life of an artist. I loosely based her on a popularized female American icon. Exploring the dynamic between Van Gogh and Sien for me was the most interesting part of the play. I used actual quotes from both people to arrange a dialogue between them based solely on love, aspirations and life. It was very intense and to conclude the scene I blacked out the stage and had Danielle Allen read an intimate poem through a microphone from the rafters. Epic!
Time passes and Sienne has a grand-daughter who also loves dancing. She falls in love with a Poet and as he walks her home they are confronted by some painters. Tension is high and conflict is about to breakout. Van Gogh intervenes and together with Sienne, they narrate a story based on the culture of Native American Indian, Peter Pan and a Few Good Men, to find a resolve.
This was a big production that included spoken word, physical theatre, dance and drama.
So much effort was contributed by all the cast members, it was surreal to see such a creative venture presented so professionally and to such a high standard. We became close as a collective and after our feature performance we all went clubbing in Camden before hanging out in the park till 5 in the morning. I looked up and saw a starry night, I hope Van Gogh would have been proud.
Featured: Camden Fringe @The Cockpit, Voila Festival @ Etcetera Theatre & The Space @ Bloomfest
Sam Burnard – Van Gogh
Jahmar Ngozi – Picasso
“The overall production is cultural, eloquent and historical as you travel through the journey of different lives that contain factual, fantasy and inspirational entertaining content.”