Maidment Theatre - Musgrove Studio, Auckland

27/02/2013 - 02/03/2013

Maidment Theatre - Musgrove Studio, Auckland

18/04/2012 - 28/04/2012

Auckland Fringe 2013

Production Details

Writer/director Geoff Allen

Presented by Galatea Theatre


The story of the woman who created the legend 

Fact: Vincent van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime.

Fact: It was 16 years after Vincent’s death before the first legend making exhibition of his work.

Fact: He is now the most reproduced artist in the world.

Fact: Today his paintings top the lists of most expensive art sales in history.

All because one woman (Johanna Van Gogh – Mrs Van Gogh – Vincent’s Sister-in-Law) refused to destroy the hundreds of paintings left to her.

All because she spent years taking them to galleries to get attention.

All because she translated 500 letters between Vincent and Theo Van Gogh.

The Musgrove Studio, Princes St, Auckland University.
18 – 28 April, 2012
Groups 10+  $15pp
Show 70mins long.
All shows 8pm
April 21st Matinee 4pm
24TH April  2 for 1 Tues   


Reviews of past Galatea Shows:
Galatea Theatre has an attractive can-do enthusiasm. NZ HERALD
The story is told refreshingly thanks to Allen’s masterfully written script. THEATREREVIEW  


The Auckland Fringe runs from 15 February to 10 March 2013. For more Auckland Fringe information go to

February 27th – March 2nd, 8pm (Sat 2nd Matinee 4pm )
Duration: 80 minutes
Location: The Musgrove Studio, Princes St. Auckland City
Tickets: $20 & $15
Bookings: Maidment Theatre – or 09 308 2383 

Johanna Van Gogh – Gina Timberlake
Theo Van Gogh – Brendan Lovell
Vincent Van Gogh – John Goudge

Music composition – John Goudge
Costume – Cathie Sandy
Stage Manager – Karen Soulje
Technical – Beren Allen
Design Consultant – Sophie Kaiser
Copies of paintings – Geoff Allen   

Theatre ,

1hr 10mins

A treat for fans

Review by Phillip J Dexter 28th Feb 2013

Vincent returns to Auckland with a re-staging of Galatea’s Theatre’s production of Mrs Van Gogh. Premiered in April 2012, this encore production is presented through the Auckland Fringe Festival and for hardened Van Gogh fans out there this could be a treat.

The play follows, in 90 short minutes, the period of Theo and his brother Vincent’s life from Theo’s marriage to Johanna Gesina Bonger through to both of their deaths as seen through the eyes of Johanna: Mrs Van Gogh. 

Although living at times separate lives Theo, played by Michael Lowe, and Vincent, John Goudge, corresponded through some 700 odd letters. In the play Johanna, featuring Gina Timberlake, has taken it upon herself to translate this correspondence from Dutch to French to English although it is not made clear why she is so compelled to do so.

After the death of Vincent and her husband she is left the sole curator and admirer of the Van Gogh collection and single-handedly perseveres to ensure the works receive the attention they so deserve.

John Goudge gives a strong and confident portrayal of Vincent and is totally immersed in the character from his dyed orange hair to the bandaged bloodied ear. His costumes, by Cathie Sandy, are a little clichéd, copied from the self-portraits.

Gina Timberlake’s Johanna is driven and full of emotion. Titling the play after this character is somewhat perplexing for although she is telling the storey her character is upstaged by that of the ever-present Vincent either centre stage or lurking in the shadows.

Michael Lowe’s performance as Theo is excellent and the madness that infects him post Vincent’s death transforms him with ferocity. Unfortunately, due to a lack of diction in places, his lines muddle the plot at times.

Writer and director Geoff Allen has crafted a piece based on a subject he is obviously passionate about, given this is the second play he has written on the subject; the first being Vincent and Theo performed in 1994. He uses a series of short scenes moving backwards and forwards in time to show the relationship between the three characters while tracking the progress of the paintings and letters after Vincent’s death.

Having Theo and Vincent play ghosts in the scenes post their deaths adds another intriguing level to the storey but also having these two actors play various lodgers in the boarding house where Johanna now lives creates confusion.

Marko Nella’s set is simple and effective with his beautiful recreations of Vincent’s paintings slowly revealed throughout the duration of the play. Lighting by Beren Allen lacks depth while John Goudge’s dark soundscape reinforces the emotion. 

For the Van Gogh fans you will be in for a treat. If you’re not it is still an entertaining evening and you may even learn a thing or two about one of the greatest painters of the last 200 years.


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Play brings us closer to Van Gough’s vision

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 22nd Apr 2012

With an original van Gogh on show in the Degas to Dali exhibition it seems particularly apt that Galatea Theatre should be presenting an intensely personal attempt to come to terms with the van Gogh mystique.

The production takes us back to a time when the life of the paintings hung in the balance. For Johanna van Gogh – the widow of Vincent’s brother Theo – they were primarily a storage problem and the sensible thing would have been to sell the stretchers and consign the paintings to a bonfire. But practical considerations are almost always shunted aside by the presence of the artist who haunts the production like an immovable poltergeist. [More


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Wikipedia for the stage

Review by Rosabel Tan 22nd Apr 2012

At the beginning of Mrs Van Gogh, Johanna Gesina Bonger (Gina Timberlake) introduces herself to the audience. I see my name does not strike a chord, she says. Perhaps you will know me better as Johanna Van Gogh – wife of Theo (Brendan Lovell), sister-in-law to Vincent (John Goudge), and one of the only reasons the latter’s work has survived. Despite this, it’s rare to see her name in print: not only have the paintings outlived her, they have overshadowed her. And so we are taken through the years she spent with the Van Gogh brothers – from her first meeting with Theo through to his death, and finally her efforts to preserve and understand both men. 

Written and directed by Geoff Allen, the play is clearly a labour of love – in the programme he describes the influence Van Gogh has had on him, citing his first play, Vincent and Theo, as the basis for the current one. The set is decorated with gorgeous imitation Van Goghs he has painted himself and the score, inspired by the artist, has been composed by the actor playing him. There’s a real sense of the passion underlying the play, but as an audience we feel very little of it. [More


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Thought-provoking but borders on ponderous

Review by Nik Smythe 19th Apr 2012

This fairly ambitious, evidently inspired latest work from Galatea Theatre is essentially a companion piece to writer/director Geoff Allen’s earlier play Vincent and Theo (1994), which explored the codependent relationship between the famous painter and his art-dealer brother. 

Eighteen years on Allen has seen fit to redress the travesty of the unsung stalwart Johanna Van Gogh, wife of Theo, whose progressive spirit in the late eighteen and early nineteen hundreds was probably the most significant factor in Vincent’s posthumous eternal fame and adoration.

In the title role, elfin Gina Timberlake is astute and forthright, very much a modern woman of her time, though often stalled in wistful contemplation.  Brendan Lovell’s Theo is dignified, compassionate, well-mannered and long suffering from the stresses of trading in art in a changing, uncertain epoch in which even paintings by his eventually celebrated brother struggle vainly for recognition. 

The careworn features and natural intensity of John Goudge as Vincent serve well to create a credible portrait, no pun intended, of the Dutch master.  

Visually the production design is well appointed under the guidance of design consultant Sophie Kaiser: a centre upstage easel framed by a large mottled canvas on the rear wall; period furniture includes a plush cloth covered table, set about with wooden chairs, and a tall back dresser housing various utilised props; to the left what at first appears to be a large, propped-up canvas turns out to be an abstract bed. 

Strewn all about are mostly recognisable Van Gogh classics, as rendered quite passably by Geoff Allen himself.  To add to this comprehensive creative package, Goudge’s evocative original musical score, composed using Vincent’s works for inspiration, is woven throughout the action.

The costumes – which may make-or-break any period piece – by Cathie Sandy are tremendously distinctive.  Vincent’s iconic baggy pants, vest and trenchcoat complement Goudge’s drawn facial features and auburn hair and beard to create a fairly redolent likeness.  The black, white and grey of Theo’s suit matches his square, upstanding character, while the collection of Johanna’s patterned and tailored frocks and gowns of are something of a fashion show in themselves. 

It seems Van Gogh was so terrified of being abandoned by his brother that many of those crazy actions he’s famous for – cutting his earlobe off, eating his paint etc. – were in response to key episodes in Theo and Johanna’s burgeoning relationship, their wedding and the birth of their only son, even though they named him Vincent.  The irrationality of his resentment is heightened by Johanna’s stalwart dedication to Theo’s ambitions and, by extension, Vincent’s, though he does come to begrudgingly recognise this reality.

Ostensibly the real intention of this play is to examine the thoughts and motives of Mrs Van Gogh, nee Bonger, which seem essentially to be based around principles of love and decency, and the rights of all people – even women! – to a fair deal.

Although this is all very remarkable and thought-provoking in itself, in a dramatic sense the very measured, bordering on ponderous, direction lacks distinction and leaves me a trifle cold.  It’s an effort to invest emotionally in performances pitched at such a cerebral level.

Some technical points are distracting, like the unconvincing sound effect of a crying baby. Also, Mrs. Van Gogh introducing herself at first with a supposedly Dutch accent, then dispensing with it during flashback scenes with Theo and Vincent, who don’t use accents; and they also speak Dutch a few times.  At first this appears to be a means of distinguishing the 1913 ‘present’ to her remembered past but even then the accent is inconsistent throughout her narrations.

Allen’s script hints at something quite affecting that has driven him to tell this tale, but the clarity of this passion is not translated very clearly into the theatrical format. It could be that as director he is hindered by over-familiarity with his text and the history behind it, so that for laypersons (like me) it’s quite hard work to connect it all up. Those familiar with Van Gogh’s personal story, if not that of his brother and sister-in-law, will undoubtedly have an advantage.  


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