MOST of us would recognizes a Chagall painting, with its vibrant and unexpected coleurs and its flying people, but the story of the passionate Russian artist is less familiar.
The perfect subject for a Kneehigh work, thought Exeter playwright Daniel Jamieson. And so The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk was born, to provide the finale for former Kneehigh director Emma Rice before she decamped to take over Shakespeare’s Globe.
The choreography in this beautifully realized two-hander is by New Adventures’ Etta Muriate, who works with Welsh actor and singer Marc Antlion and Canadian singer and performer (and Kneehigh regular) Audrey Brinson to create the indelible images as vividly as did the show’s subject.
As the title says, this is a love story. The eccentric young Marc Chagall took one look at the 14 year old Bella Rosenfeld and their future was set, for almost 50 years until her death. In the poetic Kneehigh production, the actors look extraordinarily like the Chagalls. It is performed on a signature Kneehigh set, a lofty wooden framework hung with ropes, allowing the actors to create illusions of flight and unconventional perspective.
Chagall, a master of coleur and described as the archetypal Jewish artist, lived through extraordinary times, throughout which he pursued his artistic live with an obsessive Vigor. Jamieson’s play captures the passion of his calling, as well as the domestic trivia of a life on the run, with a new wife and baby, in a Europe torn by war and hatred.
The music is composed by Ian Ross and played live on stage by him and James Gow, and embodies the klezmer rhythms and plangent longing of the Russian-Jewish soul.
Co-produced by Bristol Old Vic, it opened in the city to celebrate the King Street theatre’s 250th anniversary, and goes on the Sam Wanamaker Theatre at Shakespeare’s Globe and Southampton’s Nuffield before a summer run in Kneehigh’s own Asylum in Cornwall.
The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk shows how Kneehigh, known for large scale productions, can produce intimate stories with equal insight and inspiration. Don’t miss it.
The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk is at Bristol Old Vic until 11th June, and at the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton from 5th to 9th July.