Art In Play At Wilton's Music Hall

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, Wilton's Music Hall ★★★★☆

Sophia Shluger
By Sophia Shluger Last edited 6 months ago

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Art In Play At Wilton's Music Hall The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, Wilton's Music Hall 4

The expressionist movement aimed to portray the world subjectively, radically distorting it for emotional impact and to evoke moods on canvas. Flying Lovers of Vitebsk chronicles the love life of master expressionist painter Marc Chagall in a visually stunning performance that achieves those effects on stage.

Written by Daniel Jamieson and directed by Emma Rice, the performance recreates his artwork by employing many of Chagall's signature motifs while recounting the story of Marc and Bella's relationship. Marc Antolin as Chagall is clumsy and self-deprecating and shares strong on-stage chemistry (and vocals) with sanguine Bella (Audrey Brisson) making them quite the unassuming and adorable duo. The seriousness of their relationship is only offset by the youthful and ephemeral quality of their mime-like white painted faces.

With a fluid pace like a paintbrush on a canvas, the show uses music to move swiftly between scenes giving its transitions a dreamy quality. The set, a geometric backdrop basked in shifting colours, overlooks a small tilted stage - one of the few inventive ways the show impressively juxtaposes the expressionist movement against the tumultuous time in which it took place.

An inherently romantic narrative dotted with Yiddish songs in reference to the Chagalls' Jewish heritage, it also includes traditional klezmer music played by two talented on-stage musicians that swap between cello, trumpet and piano. While it drags in a few places, there is something incredibly immersive about this poetic and fully sensory show, which is heartfelt but never schmaltzy; in short, it is as visually and acoustically entertaining as it feels artistically and historically significant.

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, Wilton's Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, Whitechapel, E1 8JB, £17.50-£32.50, until February 23

Last Updated 29 January 2018