>vincent by ralph pavone productions

>reviewed by jeremy samuel

>date: 2 aug 2002
>time: 8pm
>venue: the university cultural centre theatre
>rating: **

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


VINCENT is a play about Van Gogh, an artist famous for having cut off his own ear. It is written, curiously enough, by Leonard Nimoy, an actor noted for his pointy prosthetic ears (they'd probably grow back if you cut them off). The play had a successful run on Broadway in the early eighties, starring Nimoy himself. This production of the one-man show features Jim Jarrett, a Hawaii-based actor who has, according to the programme, dedicated himself to a "journey towards artistic integrity."

The play begins in a Parisian lecture hall, a week after Vincent's death. The audience is a crowd of "artists, friends, anyone" to whom Vincent's brother Theo is about to read his eulogy. Through flashbacks and letters, he uncovers the story of a man who, despite his immense talent, only sold one of his paintings during his lifetime. Photos and slides of his works flash across the back wall, heightening the sense of documentary.

In a show of this nature, the solo performer is of paramount importance. And Jarrett is, well, odd. Actually, "odd" doesn't begin to describe the barrage of facial tics and mannerisms he comes equipped with. A transcript of his performance would read like Beckett: "My brother [pause, twitch] was [blink once] a lover [pause, grin at audience] of God [stare at undefined spot near lighting bar]." He is even more unsettling when he reads Vincent's letters in voiceover. His recorded voice sounds electronically slowed down - sticky and dark, like the devil speaking in 'The Exorcist'.

>>'the solo performer is of paramount importance, and Jarrett
is, well, odd.'

This is distracting enough in the early part of the play, which runs through Vincent's life in meticulous detail. It becomes absolutely maddening towards the end, which chronicles the last, painful days of Vincent's life, as he lies dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Jarrett manages to be quite moving here for a few moments at a time, but then spoils it with one of his loud, extravagant gestures. Nimoy's script is simple and honest; Jarrett cannot or will not find the stillness that would give his words the emotional weight they deserve.

Jarrett came upon this script in 1994, secured the rights and "spent the
next two and a half years preparing himself for the role of a lifetime."
There is no director credited so we can only assume that the man has been working on his own for the last eight years, getting progressively more odd. Idiosyncratic body language aside, he is simply not convincing as a nineteenth-century Frenchman - not so much because of his corn-fed American accent as that his every gesture feels contemporary. That he is never really in character becomes glaringly obvious as he switches between the roles of Vincent and Theo - he plays them exactly the same, so much so that you are never quite sure which brother he is supposed to be at any point in time.

In VINCENT, Nimoy has produced a lovingly-researched tribute to an artist he obviously has a lot of admiration for. His low-key, affectionate text has since been taken over by an actor in what can only be described as a
production of megalomaniacal proportions. Apart from Nimoy's, Jarrett's is the only name that appears in the programme. This would not matter in the least if he were any good, but his portrayal was the theatrical equivalent of having ants crawl all over your naked body. "Journey towards artistic integrity," Jim? You've got a long way to go.