This captivating and endearing production is well worth catching while you can.
It has to be said that perhaps one of the best things about this year and the reliance on digital theatre is the way in which it has allowed us to catch up with productions that we have missed in the past for one reason or another. Which is why it was so delightful to finally catch up with Kneehigh’s production of The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, filmed at the Bristol Old Vic and streamed by Wise Children.
Directed with great artistic flair by Emma Rice, The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk follows the relationship between artist Marc Chagall and his wife Bella as they attempt to navigate the Pogrom (violent attacks on Jewish people in the Russian Empire) and the Russian Revolution.
What makes this production so captivating to watch is the way in which through the poetic quality of Daniel Jamieson’s writing, the use of folksy style music and beautiful choreography – it also feels like a love letter to the arts. Every element is blended together with great style while ensuring that there is great sensitivity in the way it handles the horrors of the Russian Revolution and the Pogrom. One particularly powerful moment is when Bella tries to urge Marc to leave Russia due to the danger surrounding them but his reluctance as he begins to feel as though he is making a mark on his beloved home country through his painting is heart wrenching.
The play is pacy but you do feel as though you get a fully rounded and explored story that is wonderfully brought to life with thanks to the two central performances from Marc Antolin as Marc Chagall and Audrey Brisson as Bella. The pair have such a lovely chemistry together it is easy to invest in their relationship, particularly when cracks begin to show and Marc is more obsessed with his work than his family. But just as importantly, all their movements co-choreographed by Etta Murfitt and Emma Rice manages to highlight the strength of the relationship in a really tender way – as seen in the early stages of their relationship.
This is a very physical piece of theatre that really heightens the emotions and the story effectively, with many moments making it feel more like a dance piece that still ensures the story flows perfectly.
Musically, James Gow and Ian Ross’s performances help to enhance the changing moods and tone of the story as it unfolds, increasing that feeling of intimacy that seeps through the entire production.
Overall, this is a production that is wonderfully artistic, heartfelt and captivating to watch from start to finish.
By Emma Clarendon
The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk is being live streamed until the 5th December and then available on demand from the 11th to the 18th December.