A couple of months on from when Wise Children wowed us with their live stream of ‘Romantics Anonymous’, the team led by Emma Rice are back at the Bristol Old Vic in partnership with Kneehigh, live streaming ‘The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk’ into our homes. This is the world of theatre in 2020, a small team working their absolute hearts out to make it work. Bristol may be in tier 3, but that didn’t stop this incredible team bringing this quirky little show to life.
‘The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk’ tells the story of Marc Chagall (Marc Antolin) as he recounts his life with his beloved Bella (Audrey Brisson), set against the backdrop of Russian revolution. Amazingly, with only four people, this show creates a whole world within a very small space. Antolin and Brisson are joined by musicians Ian Ross and James Gow throughout, creating inventive dance sequences, straight off of the canvas of some of Chagall’s most famous paintings. Marc and Bella’s love was pure and beautiful, yet their lives were troubled and difficult, and this show highlights all of that in a simple and charming manner.
Marc Antolin’s Marc is passionate and free-spirited, throwing everything he has at every thing he does, be that his artwork or his role in the revolution. It would appear that romance may not have been his strong point, but Brisson’s sweet Bella brings out the best in him when he takes the time away from his painting to notice. With Marc depicted as a clown with a white painted face, he is quirky, wide eyed and innocent whilst Bella is almost fairy or pixie like, graceful and delicate. Antolin and Brisson make a perfect pair as these interesting characters, each unique and troubled yet fitting together like perfect puzzle pieces. The dance sequences are hypnotising and beautiful, you can imagine them as painted scenes hung in some grand gallery.
As Bella, Audrey Brisson shines. There is something very captivating about this performer, she draws your attention and impresses with some incredible vocals. She’s unique, suiting this role to a tee whilst Antolin adds a wonderful dose of comedy throughout. Musicians Ian Ross and James Gow add to the action with a melody selection of music.
With staging is simplistic, but a perfect example of less is more. Without the fuss of much going on in the background, you are completely drawn to the action of the performers on stage. A lot is done with a few props and ropes hanging from the frames surrounding the small stage, simple but effective. The story takes you on an adventure from the pair’s first meeting through their time together, through travels across the world, through family milestones and revolution, all told through Marc Chagall’s eyes.
To finish, ‘The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk’ triumphantly celebrates theatre’s resilience to overcome what ever is thrown at it with the cast forming a bubble to make it all possible. It’s beautiful in its simplicity with impressive performances from its small but perfectly formed cast. The story is captivating and charming, with Antolin and Brisson impressing with their chemistry and talent throughout, making the characters both realistic and lovable. I hope that this live stream is not the last we have seen on this sweet little show.