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Vincent in Brixton

Packsaddle Studio, NERAM - August/ September 2007

Directed by Barbara Albury

Produced by Jim Harrop

By Nicholas Wright. By special arrangement with Dominie Pty Ltd


Victorian England, 1873-1876. The kitchen at 87 Hackford Road, London.


Scene One: Winter
Scene Two: Spring
Scene Three: Summer
Scene Four: Autumn


It is 1873 and 20 year old Vincent van Gogh has recently arrived in London to work as an art dealer with Goupil and Co. He rents a room in a house in the middle class suburb of Brixton. The house is managed by a widow Ursula Loyer who also runs a small school for boys with her beautiful daughter Eugenie.

Vincent is captivated by Eugenie but on learning that she is already "spoken for", embarks on a secret affair with the older Ursula. This love affair is transforming for both Vincent and Ursula. Vincent begins to draw seriously and Ursula is able come out of her depression, leaving behind the grief of the past. But can this union last? And what are
the sacrifices that have to be made for a young man on the verge of a creative awakening?


“Before madness there was love” Ben Brantley, New York Times.

I like this quote as it puts Vincent van Gogh into context and sheds a different light on the ‘mad genius’ cliché. We all know that Vincent cut off part of his ear in a fit of rage and that he committed suicide at the age of 37. What I personally didn’t know was that he was also a great reader, well informed about literature and the arts, including the art theories and controversies of his age, spoke four languages (to the extent of being able to translate the bible into French, German, English and Dutch) and wrote hundreds of eloquent letters to his brother Theo.

This play examines Vincent’s early life when he was posted to London to work as an art dealer. He was only 20 and had not committed himself to becoming an artist. He was enthusiastic, somewhat brash, a little unusual in dress and manner but  basically normal. While in London he boarded with a seemingly respectable family in the London suburb of Brixton and fell in love with the landlady’s daughter. He was rebuffed and according to the playwright, Nicholas Wright, he may have then turned his attention to the mother.

Vincent in Brixton is first a love story between a young man and an older woman. It is also however a study of the genesis of artistic creation. In the play, Ursula Loyer is not only Vincent’s lover but becomes his muse, inspiring him to start on his short but intensive and spectacular artistic career.

I say “spectacular” because even though in his lifetime, Vincent seemed to be totally unsuccessful – both as a person (despite his best efforts to help the poor and needy) and as an artist (with the reputed sale of only one work) – his oeuvre was huge (over 800 canvases) and magnificent. Within the span of ten years, he transformed himself from an ordinary artist to a great one, leaving for us a legacy of some of the most recognized and iconic images of our times.

This play provides a glimpse of how a woman with no special gifts can inspire and direct a talent of genius proportions. It also explores how the path to great art sometimes begins with small steps under very ordinary circumstances with modest means and no fanfare.

Many people have contributed to the development of this production. Putting on a play is never easy and I would like to thank everyone – artists, technicians, builders, dreamers, stitchers, marketers, advisers, organizers and all those who believed in the production and have supported it.

CAST in order of appearance

Ursula Loyer: Julie Collins
Vincent van Gogh: Ben Sutton
Eugenie Loyer: Alanna Proud
Sam Plowman: Nick James
Anna van Gogh: Emma Bartik
Musician: Benjamin Thorn


Producer: Jim Harrop
Director: Barbara Albury
Assistant Director: Jennifer Vaughan
Stage Manager: Diana Helmrich
Lighting: Jamie Exworth
Original Set Concept: Agnes Majlath Abray
Set Design: Paul Bakker
Assistants: Angeliquie de Vree, Reuben Foster
Costume Design: Fiona Xeros
Costume Construction: Tracey Hasselman, Alisa Perks
Props: Dot Pollard, Barbara Albury
Poster Design: Martin Mantle
Front of House Co-ordinator: Jean Freer
Publicity: Barbara Albury, Helen Machalias
Set Construction: Gordon Cope, Ross Maclennan, Arthur Foster, Jake Taylor
Art Competition Co-ordinator: Jody Brash
Marketing: Ceclie Michels, Helen Machalias
Photography: Terry Cooke
Literary Adviser: Bernd Kusch
Video Recording: Helen Carey
Hair and Make-up: Gail Smith, Zoe Smith


Andrea Gledhill, Gordon Howell-Jones, Tracy Jones-Harris, Narelle Jarry & Del Bernett. (NERAM), Patricia Flood, Peter Chambers & Chris Summers (Armidale Folk Museum), Rosemary Mort, Warren Bartik, Bob Haworth, Emma Collins, Lisa O'Brien & Peter Blanch (Allinghams Removals), Helen Ogden, Jennifer Johnston, Lu Danieli & Gary Fry (Danieli Studios); Sue Barndon & Terry Barnett (UNE Printery); Suzanne Hill & Jennifer Ingall (ABC Tamworth); John Morrow (2ARM FM); Elizabeth Dell & staff (Dymocks), Helen Gee, Glenys Williams, Wendy Berkely & Rosemary Johnson (Zonta), Ann Pettigrew (Booloominbah Group), Sue Dee (Focus), Jason Rattenburg (NERAM Cafe), Carol Bamdon (Belgrave Cinema), Lorraine Coffey, Christian Knight, Nicole Cook, Peter Barrett, Jurek Szafjanski, Geoff Cullen, Sally Wheaton & Tim Barnsley (The Armidale Express), Cath Jukes, Seren Trump, Lisa Brunner, Joanna Harrison & Trudy Singh (The Armidale Independent), Jim Scanlan (Marketing and Public Affairs UNE), Peter O'Donohue (Theatre Studies UNE), AnnE Cunningham, Jan Day (New England Wigs & Headwear), Bernie May (Creeklands Veterinary Surgery), Ashleigh Towney (New England Hotel)


Armidale Folk Museum for loan of props


Armidale Building Supplies, The Armidale Express, Belgrave Twin Cinema, Banalasta, Hoholt, Armidale Ceramics, Anne & Stuart Boggs, Steve Julie Campbell Photographers, Moin & Associates, WHK Camerons, Training Resource and Multimedia Studio Pty Ltd, Dewhurst Dental, Dymocks, Harvey Norman, Hubbard Hire, New England Dental Group, Office Express, NERAM, Roberts & Morrow Chartered Accountants, Country Energy

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