Hot on the heels of numerous sold out shows, Kneehigh Theatre brings their soaring success, The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk to the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham this week.

The Story

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk is, at it’s heart, a love story. Following the real life story of artist Marc Chagall and talented writer Bella Rosenfeld as they begin their life together, this small but perfectly formed two-hander is Director Emma Rice’s swansong for Kneehigh.

It’s a deeply emotional, personal exploration of all consuming love at first sight; creativity and sacrifice set against both the conflict of the First World War and the Russian revolution, and the other, more personal conflict of life as an artist and a lover.

Cheltenham, Everyman, Gloucestershire, Theatre, Everyman Theatre, Kneehigh, Flying Lovers of Vitebsk
Credit: Steve Tanner

The Cast

Marc Antolin reprises his role from the 2016 run as Marc Chagall; neurotic, arrogant but charming and more than a little clown-like, he is utterly compelling as both Chagall and Bella’s incoherent and inconsolable mother. There’s a moment where you wonder if his arrogance will be his undoing, comparing his creativity to the childbirth Bella has endured, but Antolin’s performance keeps Chagall from losing both himself and the support of the audience.

Daisy Maywood is captivating as Bella; you simply cannot take your eyes off her whenever she is on stage. Her Bella is intelligent, fierce and defiant in the face of a world where a woman sacrifices her own creativity for the sake of all else around her.

The Flying Lovers also features an on-stage accompaniment of two musicians. They play beautifully alongside Marc and Daisy’s singing of traditional Russian-Jewish songs; music, movement and light collectively transform this small production into an immersive world.

The Verdict

First performed over 25 years ago with Rice as Bella opposite writer and then husband Daniel Jamieson as Marc, this reimagining is truly powerful and shows the effect the Chagalls and indeed this play have both had in shaping Kneehigh’s work over the years. As Emma herself says, she carries this play in her heart, and this performance is so clearly an ode to the company she created.

Emma has created a delicate, personal and deeply affecting performance which will leave you roaring with laughter and with tears on your cheek at the end; I urge you to book tickets immediately. If you caught the brilliant La Strada last year, the Flying Lovers will undoubtedly enchant you in a similar manner.

The Flying Lovers soar high; this is Kneehigh at it’s best.

Where can you see The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk?

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk is on at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham until Saturday 5th May 2018. It then heads off to the Brighton Festival.

What can I see next at the Everyman Theatre?

Tilted Wig and Malvern Theatres’ production of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations hits the stage from the 8th May. Immediately after starting on 15th May is the Cotswold Savoyard’s amateur production of My Fair Lady. Don’t miss them!

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