Vincent in Brixton is a speculative interpretation of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh’s early years in London which takes as its inspiration the artist’s passionate letters to his younger brother. The play was won the Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2003 and has proved itself to be one of Nicholas Wright’s most popular and enduring plays.
At the age of 20 Vincent found himself working for the international art-dealing firm, Goupil and Co. In order to gain more experience, the firm posted him to London in the early 1870s where he rented a room in the house of English widow, Ursula Loyer. The play is a portrait of the would-be artist as a young man and depicts his initial passion for religion instead of art. He quickly falls for his landlady’s daughter, Eugenie, though his affection is wholly unrequited. When her affair with aspiring artist Sam is revealed, Vincent transfers his affections onto Ursula who is reinvigorated by his passion after years in mourning. However, their tryst is only fleeting as Vincent is transferred back to Paris. He would later return to England as a supply teacher before heading for Europe to continue his preaching career. He would eventually settle on becoming an artist in 1880 with his entry into the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels.
Vincent in Brixton was first performed at the National Theatre in London in 2002 in a production directed by Richard Eyre. It was incredibly well received with the Sunday Times declaring it to be ‘one of the best new plays ever presented by the National Theatre.’ Its portrait of a young Van Gogh chimed with audiences too and it swiftly transferred to the West End. It also played at the Lincoln Center Theater in New York and toured the UK.