VINCENT Copyrighted The Guild of International Songwriters & Composers
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I've always loved the work of Vincent Van Gogh and the film "Lust for Life" opened up a new world to me. The artist as a tortured soul suffering for his/her art! Somehow, although quite a happy chap, I can relate to this notion. Vincent is a composition of nice, sweet accordion tunes that contrast to the heavier, dark pieces. I enjoyed writing the text - it was a good exorcism! The set would consist of backdrops that are inspired by his paintings and, like Ebenezer, the audience will be confronted by man's inhumanity to man. And the music was written for contemporary dance. This is another SCAMP studio recording and works very well, but there is tremendous potential to bring Vincent back to life by widening the choice of musical style. My favourite piece? - has to be Brother. (Rest Your Weary Heart is a close second and wow is it a real test for the vocalist!) But it is Act Two that is the most powerful and moving.
This new musical in two acts confronts the audience with the dramatic final hours of Vincent Van Gogh. Fourteen songs/melodies support rhyming verse and contemporary dance challenge our understanding of the agony of the artist and the despair of the man. Vincent pleads for help as he tries in vain to understand his life. Can we empathise with his vulnerability and dependence on others? We will hear him sing, “I think I’ll die today”. Surely words that should never be spoken by anyone. We will hear him say, “For I have a devil a companion unknown …” Do we know what he means?
What responsibility for Vincent Van Gogh will you accept? Perhaps we fail people like him … still.
As our audience arrives the Pavement Café on stage is already doing business. A lone waiter serves customers enjoying the early evening air. It is Paris and the stars are shining. All seems well …
Scene One: The Pavement Café at Night
As the audience settles the lights dim slightly and for a few moments all remains calm until suddenly the waiter scurries back in to the Café where he cannot be seen. Slowly the customers lower their heads mumbling to each other nervously, looking around as if in anticipation of something about to happen... more
Take This Hand
He asks for help. Who understands how he feels? What should he do? Surely he’s not the only soul living in this world to feel despair? As he sings he offers his hand to the darkness of the café behind him and then again to the audience. Each time he waits for a response. There is none. He stands alone. He seems exasperated and begins to walk along the stage restlessly in agitation. Can we understand it is not the first time he has felt loneliness and alienation?
The music concludes and Vincent clearly remains distressed. Slowly he raises his hands to clasp his head as if in pain, but remains motionless staring down to the floor centre stage. Then he looks up to the audience and speaks:
This life is unfulfilled yet my journey’s been long
And now Madness is reached where discordance is strong . .. more
The accordionist plays a cheerful melody and this encourages the customers to continue dancing even though Vincent begins to walk like an unseen ghost amongst them. His is a figure of contrast in this happy social setting and he stops to sit at a vacant table...more
Why this Starry Sky?
Vincent wonders about any meaning to his life. The beauty he perceives only compounds his loneliness and pain. Is there an understanding that is evading him? What is humanity and where is honesty? The other customers continue to listen attentively but now with sadness in their eyes – but for whom? . . more
Is there hidden substance to these heavens,
A place of wonder where Romance presides,
And what do you see as you search the sky...more
He buries his head in his hands and then from the darkness we hear music.
Into the Night
Vincent looks up and listens intently as if the music is speaking to him. Then, frowning as if in deep thought, he moves to the centre of stage. Slowly he begins to sway and dance like a man burdened with the heaviest melancholy. His is a dying heart and he looks around the empty street. He slowly nods his head as if wearily accepting that it is his fate to be alone.
When he finishes talking Vincent becomes motionless. He stares down at the floor as if entranced. He does not wish to speak and a familiar darkness falls onto him.
Scene Two: The All Night Café
The café is not busy and its few customers look bored and only interested in their drinks. They include Paul Gaugin, Theo, Dr Cachet, the accordion player and the postman. All respond in a disinterested manner when Vincent walks slowly into the café and takes a seat beside a woman. She is dressed like a prostitute, looks briefly over to Vincent and then returns to stare into her empty glass. She represents the loves of his life and the permanent relationship for which he yearned but never achieved. They stare into their wine and do not communicate...more
Why all this Heartache?
She tries to understand him and the nature of the love they have shared. She knows it may be over but she is not certain. What is it they both want and feel? Why is he so unhappy? As she sings she moves around the room occasionally looking at other customers as if they might offer advice – but they ignore her. As the song ends her question is unanswered and she reluctantly returns to her seat. She pours herself wine and they drink silently. The previous accordion player now sitting at the bar, begins to play.
Another cheerful song reminds us of happier spirits in the world. A few people dance yet in a melancholy way remaining oblivious and uninterested in Vincent and his love who ignore the dancers as they begin to talk. The other customers who do not dance (including Gauguin who is clearly avoiding Vincent and looking everywhere but at him) all drink heavily beginning to make a lot of noise...more
Where’s that Feeling?
It seems we need love,
For many better than I have praised its worth
But where is it found?
For I’ve known no abundance on this God’s earth ... more
She explains the nature of her love that has been difficult to maintain. Although recognising good times she wonders aloud if anyone can live with this intense man and his obvious madness. But whilst singing perhaps she is hoping he will waken and respond and beg with her to stay with him?.. more
If she were here, I would say….
You heavenly creatures more softly than man
Eyes of such promise if rejected the veil... more
(Vincent memorabilia now on sale in the foyer!)
Scene Three: The Wheatfield with Crows
The stage is empty but the strong threatening music of The Field forewarns, preparing the audience for the return of Vincent Van Gogh. He enters and moves quickly centre stage to begin painting frantically. He seems greatly unsettled and clearly is not happy with his work or himself... more
This need to paint, both torment and pleasure
How it floods the veins, relentless in measure
Born in heaven, but corrupted in hell
Oh! The despair when its energies swell …more
And, yet again, Vincent Van Gogh chooses to confront the audience as he considers the main support in his life and whom today he needs more than ever …
Oh Closest friend, eternal hope
The brightest eye in darkest days
My heavy heart, our greatest weight
Depressing now to welcome fate ... more
Vincent reminds us of his love and need for Theo, his brother. He turns from the audience and begins to walk as he sings, as if trying to find the one person who has stood by him always. But the field is huge and Vincent is small. Today Theo cannot help. Vincent’s voice is not heard. His lament provokes no response... more
When I am ill colour pervades
Texture is thin beneath gloomy shades
The eye beholds what the heart does feel
An artist’s life …more
I think I’ll die today
Vincent sings about the inevitability of taking his own life. He moves around the stage swaying gently to the music. He occasionally sings directly to the audience and, as his fate approaches, he seems to become less distressed. He has no fear … having finally found an answer. The nature of life, his life, has been too dark. It must end...more
Death of an Artist
Vincent Van Gogh is now lying centre stage motionless. There is little light be we can see movement around him. Dark human shapes appear from the blackness but it is unclear what they are doing. Then the stars in the heavens begin to glow their welcome.
Scene Four: The Starry Night
A soft light returns to the stage and we can now identify the people who have known Vincent. Theo, Paul, Dr Cachet and the Postman are all there. They lift him onto a raised, dark blanketed bed that is centre stage. They seem ashamed and move away to form a group. They huddle together as if sharing and discussing a secret. But they are clearly in some distress. Are they mourning? Are they to blame for Vincent’s plight? Perhaps, now, they feel a growing consciousness and responsibility for Vincent? .. more
Rest Your Weary Heart/Lonely Star
Facing each other the group sing their farewell, sharing feelings of grief and perhaps guilt? But surely they can now accept he is at peace and that he has gone to a better life? Have his questions been answered so that he may understand his own importance and contribution?
As they continue to sing, the brightest star moves slowly across the sky and finally stops above them. Its presence excites these mortal souls who look up to it and whisper to each other. Surely it must be a sign for Vincent Van Gogh the Great Artist who can now finally rest in peace?
There is a final expressed recognition of the man who was Vincent Van Gogh. Now he is understood. Now his genius is recognised. Of course he was unique! Of course they appreciate him! Yet there is no dancing. There clearly is a shame hanging over the group. They know he died too young and alone and they watch mesmerised as several of his paintings appear in the darkness above – but soon they fade. Vincent’s mourners then separate to gaze to the sky as all stars slowly fade into the darkness. Vincent’s star shines alone. It seems strong. But then it fades.
Finally the curtains close.