Review: ‘Pieces of Vincent’ at Arcola Theatre

‘PIECES of Vincent’ by David Watson follows the lives of nine seemingly disconnected characters simultaneously thrown together and torn apart by one act of violence.

A gay piano teacher receives a visit from a young Nigerian shopworker in Tuffnel Park. Former lovers wrestle painfully over the past. Two old friends smoke a joint together in a back yard in Birmingham. And an Irish policeman describes his pain at the death of his son to a grieving grandmother.

At the heart of all of them is Vincent (Adam Best) – an impassioned young artist living in London alone.

The individual stories are gradually interwoven through director Clare Lizzimore‘s creative and challenging staging. The audience sits on the floor on cushions – only marginally less comfortable than the theatre’s usual seating – and are surrounded by four walls on which the pieces of the play are put together.

Award-winning designer Es Devlin, who has worked with the likes of Lady Gaga and Muse on their live shows in the past, projects a series of evocative films onto the walls behind which the actors then appear.

The films effectively add dimension but would deliver more impact if they were shorter and snappier. And the gauze screens, along with the actors’ varied and often thorny accents, have both an engaging and excluding influence.

The audience swivels and strains to follow the drama with curiosity. But it seems a shame not to clearly see the expressions or hear the words.

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Performances are equally mixed with authentic portrayals from Best as Vincent and Dearbhla Molloy as embittered old lady Anne. Not so strong is Sian Clifford whose appearance as young wife Rachel seems forced at times.

Although amusing, the relationship between Charles Mnene as Khalid Masaudi and Shane Zaza as Amar Saleem is not allowed to develop quite enough to fall into place.

So ‘Pieces of Vincent’ is a play of many halves despite the lack of interval. It can be clunky and uncomfortable at times, but its treatment of coming to terms with trauma is undoubtedly tender.

‘Pieces of Vincent’ runs at Arcola Theatre in Arcola Street until September 25. Tickets cost �16 or �10 for concessions. Arrangements can be made for those concerned about sitting on the floor. For more information or to book go to or call the box office on 020 75031646.