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Letters from a tormented artist come to life

Detail from self portrait in Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum of an artist brought to life on the Lausanne stage. Keystone

The Swiss, it seems, are mad about Van Gogh; an exhibition of his paintings continues to attract large crowds to the Gianadda Foundation in Martigny, while a play about him is now enjoying similar success in Lausanne.

This content was published on October 23, 2000 - 16:12

"Vincent Van Gogh: Lettres à son frère Théo" is based on the artist's prolific correspondence with his brother Théo during the final decade of his life, when he was at his most productive as a painter.

It is directed by Georges Brasey, who says Van Gogh wrote as he painted. While reading the letters to prepare a dramatisation of them, Brasey's perception of the paintings changed: "The canvases took on an even stronger and fresher dimension, becoming more intimate and profound."

During pre-production, Brasey had to convert the brothers' letters - written between 1882 and 1890 - into something that could be performed on stage. "I made a ruthless selection from the letters, said Brasey. "It was then that their correspondence became more touching, and the presence of the two brothers becomes more real on stage."

The close relationship between Vincent and Théo was one of two reasons why Brasey began the project. His second reason was - as he puts it - to translate Van Gogh's extraordinary personality into theatre, through the letters, and bring out the role they played in his art.

"Without a doubt," said Brasey, Vincent Van Gogh would not have been as prolific an artist without the very special friendship he shared with his brother."

In the play, Brasey himself plays the part of Vincent, while Marc Mayoraz has the rôle of Théo.

"Vincent Van Gogh: Lettres à son frère Theo" runs at the Théâtre Lausannois 2.21 until October 29.

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