Monthly Archives: January 2022

Quarrel in Arles

‘Quarrel in Arles’ is a homage to the turn of the century Dutch Artist Vincent Van Gogh. Written by E. Thomalen, it was a no holds barred account of the fate full year 1888 of the artist’s life told from the horse’s mouth so to speak as it was a reading from letter of correspondence between Vincent, his brother Theo, Johanna Bonger (who was to marry Theo) and Paul Gauguin.

These letters are a point of reference of the past, and act like documents that unveil the history of some very important times for the art world. In good humour Vincent would write to his brother about his excitement always starting with ‘My dear Theo…’ and always ending expressing a hand shake of affection.

They were very close as brothers and friends and remained as pillars of support for each other. When we study Vincent in the modern world his letters are never far from exploration. The reading by Timothy Portnay, playing Vincent, Gauguin and Theo and Yumiko Gardener playing Johanna was coupled by only one picture on the screen that was a Van Gogh painting of a sunflower, perhaps chosen because it is one of the most relatable to date.

Separated into parts the year unfolded with event after event for the Van Gogh team. All of whom supported him as an artist unequivocally through turmoil not the least the fact that his paintings just wouldn’t sell. Listening to these letters show casing his thoughts we could step back and follow with no little joy’s and woe’s that were to reflect the artists moods and discrepancies.

He was in great excitement about his idea for an art colony in Arles; where he had moved after finding his legendarily famous yellow house, so called because its walls were painted yellow. In his faithful heart he wanted and indeed revered the idea that a fellow painter Paul Gauguin would head it.

The story went from France to Holland and vice versa as each told their stories via all these letters. Theo was also an art dealer and Vincent wanted him to paint as well, but the focus was on Vincent’s work. They described his paintings and theories with such an abundant joy that was as essential as breath.

And who now has not heard of this artist and therefore heard about his very fragile condition as a human being. And yes a vein darkness began to immerge. From the letter we realise that for him it was no joke. As we followed each story we could understand that not selling for him was a sadness that gripped him as vividly as cold air and hung around for just as long.

But his letters to his brother were filled with the excitement he felt and sure enough Gauguin decided to move to Arles to live with him at the Yellow house. The two tried to create a collaboration that would bring them together as great friends and towering Artists but things proved difficult and they found that in art and life they disagreed fiercely.

But Vincent’s problems were to worsen his paranoia grew too great to control and though Gauguin had great affection for the man he saw suffering he felt unsafe and even in fear for his life. At this point tears were gathering in my eyes I asked myself how can something so gracious be born of such suffering.

The Vincent we know of cut off part of his own ear, in the interests of sacrifice (putting it in a box to be kept), he recovered after time at an asylum but the storm that engulfed his life ended in terrible tragedy. And as this sadness extended its arm into me with force of nature his work only became more beautiful. Had he sold in his lifetime things may well have been different but I’m afraid it could not have assuaged his deteriorating life spiral. His gentility of work was some of the most harmoniously ever created at least that’s how I like to remember looking back at his life.

Daniel Donnelly

Watch: Quarrel In Arles

The Laurel and Hardy Cabaret

Roll up roll up, were the sentiments of ‘the Laurel and Hardy Cabaret’ as the duo stepped onstage. It was as if we had come across a portal to the past with posters of the two’s shows on the wall they sidled up in full Mimicking costumes. The scene was set for my online viewing of this year’s comedy at the Scenesavers festival.

In all politeness Ollie (Hardy) began by addressing the audience with the famed words of ‘Ladies and gentlemen’. So the comedy that poured out was with the use of props and stories from the duo’s real act from the 20’s to the 50’s of the twentieth century. 

The nostalgic black and white films are something of a cult for comedy and film of the time but the show was thrown into a new disarray of timely responses and reactions. The audience were mostly children who from the sound of their laughter and cheering enjoyed it very much.

From this I could sit back with the job done of relinquishing the show and simply take it in because as a show it had its own merits. It let me appreciate the act and its nuances I also fairly recently saw the film ‘Stan and Ollie’ that portrayed their sensitive act which at times was like a roller coaster for the two. 

Ollie’s pristine and well to do appearance would always want things clean and well presented while Stan always seemed to do his best at disrupting anything Ollie said. They used original jokes blended with fresh takes but were all about doing what the two did back then which was to really entertain on stage.

Their sweetness only grew as they merged into their gentle but slapstick roles. The story included their journeys within their act and without in their friendship off stage. They were two charming clowns in tie and waist coat with the legendary hats and Ollie’s tiny moustache.

In his innocent cajoling Stan’s antics were so many as to compile their own show, his work with a balloon was a turn of events as he let the air out to make that sound Ollie was left wandering where it was coming from.

It had begun with a skit about Stan’s driving licence application and the joke went into hilarity with clever word use so as to baffle Ollie who only wanted to help. It was just the right level of reflection so as to really get to grips with its wonderful homage.  The original duos accomplishments and revelations of friendship had been and are still around today for our enjoyment, making them very famous conservative clowns.

With Ollie’s preparedness and Stan chaotic workings, they travelled in and out of cities and countries where their show would bring the house down, yes with comedy but also in nostalgia in the shows that made them so famous. All of which helping to make this act all the more revelatory for themselves and where they made those moments of the show that always lifted the audience. 

And every time they returned to the comedy template of the two characters singing and joking with a friendly heart. Trying to push the boundaries with fresh antics we were held there in the past for the show and were really reminded by the songs and music just how long ago it was. As touching and charming as they were this act wound up nicely with a touching goodbye. 

Daniel Donnelly

Watch: The Laurel & Hardy Cabaret