The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk
by Daniel Jamieson
A Bristol Old Vic, Kneehigh and Wise Children production available on demand from 11th December 2002 until 18th December 2020.
On demand – £21
Running time 1 hour 30 mins (no interval). 4**** Review Mark Courtice 5th December 2020
Daniel Jamieson’s script and Emma Rice’s direction make sure that this story of Marc Chagall doesn’t just recreate his art on stage because where’s the theatre in that? The lovers in this play are those from the ravishing pictures but also Chagall himself and the love of his life, his wife Emma. They flying in more ways than one, as they have to fly from the pogroms that chased Jewish people across Europe.
This is a proper piece of theatre, sure footed and richly layered. Jamieson’s decision to make it about two artists – Bella Chagall wrote a revealing journal of their life which Marc here realises the value of too late, and for which he made illustrations for a posthumous publication, pays off. They lived through momentous times so this isn’t just art history.
It is all beautifully done, Ian Ross‘s score is folky run through with klezmer, the performances from Marc Antolin and Audrey Brisson are engaging and warm and although the whole is a much a history as a drama we are engaged in their fate and moved by the love story at its heart. Sophia Clist’s set with its simple frames from which the lovers really do seem (just as in the famous pictures) to fly, arching over the small platform where even this small cast can jostle each other and which in a moving moment is filled with refugees’ shoes is, like the rest, apt, clever and inspiring.
Originally commissioned by Theatre Alibi for their small scale touring remit, the small cast and narrow focus that this leads to (the Russian revolution is entirely described as it related to Marc Chagall) might make it feel a bit slight. However, it is triumphantly right for being live streamed, and the video production here is excellent.
Marc Chagall Marc Antolin
Bella Chagall Audrey Brisson
Written by Daniel Jamieson
Directed by Emma Rice
Music by Ian Ross
Choreographer Etta Murfitt
Set & Costume Design Sophia Clist
Lighting Design Malcolm Rippeth
Sound Design Simon Baker
Musician James Gow