Review: The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, West Yorkshire Playhouse

Kneehigh's exquisite production, directed by Emma Rice, is based on the real-life relationship between French-Russian artist Marc Chagall and his wife Bella.

Marc Antolin and Daisy Maywood in The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk.
Marc Antolin and Daisy Maywood in The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk.

Rice is moving on to pastures new with her own company Wise Children, and this is a heartfelt, beautiful swansong. While it has a warm intimacy as it explores a profound connection between two people, the play also looks outwards – Marc and Bella’s love story coincided with some of the 20th century’s most momentous events and we see how their lives were affected by the Russian Revolution and both world wars.

Born into the Jewish community of Vitebsk in Belarus, Marc and Bella were forced to leave their beloved home, a loss which stayed with them. It adds an extra layer of poignancy and longing to their story which also touches on the personal cost of creativity and the sacrifices and compromises that are sometimes necessary in order to pursue an artistic life.

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Actors Marc Antolin and Daisy Maywood inhabit their roles and deliver utterly convincing, very moving performances, while composer Ian Ross and fellow multi-instrumentalist James Gow provide a hugely evocative soundtrack that combines traditional Jewish music with Russian and Yiddish folk songs and a recurring Tchaikovsky motif.

Through beautifully choreographed movement, the production not only subtly incorporates scenes from Chagall’s most famous paintings but also conveys the sheer joy of the kind of all-encompassing, nurturing and generous love that Marc and Bella were lucky enough to share.

To March 24.