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Monday, January 19, 2015


Dramatic performance of strength and conviction by Marc Kay in poignant and dramatic work. (Review by Keith Millar)

Durban actor and playwright Marc Kay won an award at the Musho! Festival 10 years ago. This year he returned to the Festival at the Catalina Theatre at Wilson’s Wharf with an innovative new production entitled Vincent.

Written and performed by Kay himself, and directed by Peter Court, this poignant and dramatic work recounts the life, loves and decent into madness of the artist Vincent Van Gogh.

The play is based on the hundreds of letters Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo. The scene is set in modern times in an auction house where these letters are about to be auctioned off. The pre-recorded voice of the auctioneer provides biographical facts from the letters which cues Kay to perform dramatised versions of incidents and events that are revealed about Van Gogh’s life.

We hear of his loves – almost always inappropriate – as well as his financial problems, his despair and feelings of inadequacy at not been able to sell his work, his rejection of his religion and the severing of his own ear, along with many other incidents which all mark a slow decent into madness and ultimately suicide.

Many artists have not been appreciated during their lifetimes but there can be no more extreme example of this than the experiences of Van Gogh. He never attained any success or recognition in his personal or artistic life. The despair and feelings of hopelessness and rejection he suffered are quite palpable during the production.

As an audience member, one could not help but share in these emotions when hearing this tragic story. The most heartrending moment is at the end of the play when the auctioneer auctions off the painting The Starry Night for 6.8 million pounds, while Don McLean’ evocative song Starry Starry Night plays in the background.

Marc Kay puts in a dramatic performance of strength and conviction during this production. The subject matter is obviously close to heart as he treats it with appropriate respect. He was heavily made-up to physically resemble Van Gogh and wore suitably tatty and paint-spattered clothing. This also added to the sense of despondency one felt during this production.

Vincent is an impressive dramatic work which could be expanded to delve deeper into the psyche of this complex character.

The Musho! Festival is presented by PANSA with support from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund as well as Ethekwini Municipality, the KZN Department of Arts and Culture, The Daily News, BASA, the Catalina Theatre and The Twist Theatre Development Projects. – Keith Millar