Friday, February 23

Flying Lovers of Vitebsk – Bristol Old Vic

As theatre continues to adapt to the restrictions of a pandemic. Wise Children and the Kneehigh Theatre follow suite as they perform live at the Bristol Old Vic for an online audience.

Thank goodness as this is keeping the spirit of the theatre alive, while giving many the opportunity to watch a live show and enjoy a joyful experience, from the comfort of their own homes.

Directed by Emma Rice, of Wise Children, (Wise Children, Malory Towers, Romantics Anonymous) the story is written by Daniel Jamieson. It centres around artist Marc Chagall and his partner Bella. A generally romantic story set against the backdrop of the early 1900’s.

Chagall’s paintings made a beautiful use of colours and flying lovers were an ongoing theme that featured in many of his works, thus the title reflects this.

This production is beautifully performed and constructed just like a piece of artwork. The characters of Marc and his lover are played by Marc Antolin and Audrey Brisson. Their voices combine effortlessly and stunningly. They complement each other well and their onstage chemistry is strong. Antolin and Brisson have a wonderful, animated charm that is imbued with mime artiste and expressive proportions.

Photo: Steve Tanner

Despite the breezy artsy feel the backdrop of a play is set in devastating times in history, world war one and the Russian Revolution. This is conveyed with clever lighting by Malcolm Rippeth and the set design which remains dark and intimate, drawing the audience in to their souls.

Chagall was Russian himself and the accompanying music has this sort of nod, as musicians Ian Ross and James Gow, perfectly recreate the Jewish vibe on cello and keyboards.

Costumes by Sophia Clist are simply stylised. They are almost marionette, floaty and clown-like in a Pierrot way. They complement the characters of Marc and Bella’s melancholy beauty along with white painted faces and bright red lips.

Bella often waits 11 hours a day for Marc who is out at work, in which time is unimaginable dreary for her as the artist’s wife. However, the contrast of happiness and exhilaration when he is reunited with her at night is a total contrast of merriment and fun. This is a constant of the Flying Lovers: reflecting the diversity of life.

There is a suitably tragic ending which seems to be a symptom of the era of paranoia, anti-Semitism and bleakness. Not before Bella has produced her memoir which must have been a rarity in those days for an artist’s wife.

The Flying Lovers takes the viewer to an alternative magical place that is long forgotten, the characters draw you in on a wave of emotions from joy to tears, tragedy and success. Triumph over adversity. As ever Emma Rice has added her special talent and signature style which adds to the memorability.

Available online until 18th December, visit for times and booking information.

Reviewer: Rachel Foster

Reviewed: 4th December 2020

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★