Hannah Smith of Rosemary Branch Theatre brings a unique piece of imaginative theatre to the Fringe. In Conversations with Van Gogh, Smith examines the nature of her emotions, feelings and mental health through the works of the famous painter. Van Gogh, or Vincent, as she calls him, led a troubled life, unable to control his negative emotions and prone to frequent outbursts. He committed suicide when he was 37.
Smith has also written this show, and the poetic, lingering script is good. She draws almost exclusively on personal experience to talk about myriad emotions. She also gives the audience a potted history of her family and their collective trauma in her past. Smith successfully engages the audience with a very minimal set, limited props and on the strength of her delivery. She is a powerful performer and her different movements combined with the changing light work well. There is a nice nod to Avicii as well.
The script is limited to Van Gogh’s most famous paintings – Starry Night and Sunflowers, amongst others. It does make one wonder why Smith hasn’t dug deeper, to talk about lesser known works of the artist. It would have been interesting to have seen beyond his iconic creations. The alternating style of being in character for a while followed by addressing the audience directly doesn’t work very well either. It is confusing and unclear and there isn’t enough variation to distinguish one from the other. Finally, there is little to appeal to a wider audience; it misses a trick to attempt a broader connection beyond just one artist.
However, for those interested in Van Gogh’s life and works, this is a beautiful and enjoyable performance. Anyone who has dealt with challenges in their mental health journey will enjoy this show as a refreshing way of finding encouragement – through art and hope.