Emma Rice’s final production for Kneehigh is a tender portrayal of the vibrant relationship between famed expressionist painter Marc Chagall and his wife Bella. Played by Marc Antolin and Audrey Brisson, the couple swing and dart around each other playfully and, aided by some creative lighting design and fantastic staging, manage to capture the spirit of Chagall’s work perfectly.

The staging is phenomenally designed and removes any need for crass flight illusions. Set on a tilt, with crossing and colliding beams and ropes that the actors lean, swing and dance round, it perfectly encapsulates the playful joy of Chagall’s paintings. The lights flood in an array of colours, harking back to the rainbow coloured animals scattered through his work, and creating the expressionist ethos onstage.

Joined onstage by two musicians, Antolin and Brisson also incorporate Yiddish folk music into the piece. After the Second World War, much of the Chagall’s Russian Jewish culture was wiped out so these elements (along with some endearing references to Jewish foodie favourites: fish balls, anyone?) act as a tender homage to a lost culture. The chemistry between the pair is tender and genuine, both in their better and worse moments as a couple, demonstrated with particular charm through the choreography which sees them twist and turn around each other effortlessly, as though floating. Ah, so this is how the flying lovers fly.

Words: Chiara Margiotta

Photo: Steve Tanner

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, Traverse Theatre, Aug 23-27, times vary

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