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Review: The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk (Kneehigh & Bristol old Vic)

I want to start this by saying I’ve long been a fan of Emma Rice & Kneehigh and so it baffles me that I had not, up until now, seen The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, a landmark production for the companies involved. When writers start a review like that, it rarely ends up positive but it appears that I had been missing out on one of the most prepossessing productions I’ve ever seen, it is bloody excellent.

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk follows artist Marc Chegall (Marc Antolin), famous for his exquisite paintings of a gravity-defying couple, and his writer-wife Bella (Audrey Brisson). We follow the highs and lows of their tumultuous journey as Jewish citizens navigating their way through a Europe rife with anti-semitism. The shifting dynamic between Bella and Marc is the crux of the story here, Bella’s financial worries for the pair and Marc’s ignorant focus on his artistic endeavours enable us to gently follow the pair all the way to a heart-wrenching conclusion.

The script by Daniel Jamieson falters at no point, his poetic scripture fused with Rice’s ingenious direction gives Antolin and Brissell the vehicle to nimbly manoeuvre their way through Sophia Clist’s set, of which co-choreographers Etta Murfitt and Emma Rice use every inch. Casting directors Georgia Simpson and Lucy Taylor deserve a special mention here as Marc Atonlin is sublime as Chagall and Audrey Brisson pitch-perfect as Bella, both parts excellently cast. Each bring just the right amount of subtlety and expertise needed to take on a mammoth show like Flying Lovers. This is an acting masterclass.

Director of Photography Steve Tanner uses his expertise to create an enchanting evening of storytelling that is punctuated with theatrical brilliance, all experienced from the comfort of your very own home. Every moment between the two, every dance, every hug, every kiss and every moment of love is the most picturesque you will find anywhere else on a stage. It made me yearn for a night at the theatre more than I ever have before, which is a testament to Tanners work transforming this into a cinematic experience.

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk is a picture-perfect paradisiacal love letter to Theatreland, perfectly executed by a powerhouse team of creatives. Do. Not. Miss. It.

You can catch Kneehigh’s Flying Lovers of Vitebsk on demand from the 11th-18ths of December here.

Photo by Steve Tanner

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