Tag Archives: Audrey Brisson

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk



The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk

Bristol Old Vic via bristololdvic.org.uk

Reviewed – 4th December 2020



“as vibrant as Chagall’s paintings but made more enchanting by the truly endearing performances”


Although Marc Chagall is often referred to as the ‘quintessential Jewish artist of the twentieth century’, Chagall preferred to see himself as representing “not the dream of one people but of all humanity”. A bold claim from one who was raised and immersed in his Jewish culture, but one that is justified. His work transcended the canvas and the artistic movements he helped shape, as he became involved in theatre, set and costume design; even painting the ceiling of the ‘Opéra Garnier’ in Paris. But he is best known for his varied repertoire of images that include melancholy clowns, flying lovers, fiddlers on roofs, circus performers and musicians. They are flights of fancy, which is why a dramatic celebration and portrayal of his life is such an attractive challenge for Emma Rice.

When it opened at the Bristol Old Vic in 2016, “The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk” was Rice’s swansong for ‘Kneehigh’, although her love affair with the show goes back much further. And it is to the Old Vic that it returns, in association with both Kneehigh and ‘Wise Children’. A two-hander, although frequently supplemented by the musicians, it is as vibrant as Chagall’s paintings but made more enchanting by the truly endearing performances from Marc Antolin (as Chagall) and Audrey Brisson as his muse and wife, Bella. Antolin and Brisson together capture both the ecstasy and the cracks in their life together. They are not just flying lovers but fleeing lovers too – escaping the anti-Semitism that swept through Europe. Yet it avoids the panoramic perspective and focuses more on the intricate brush strokes of the lovers’ lives, and the personal sacrifices they make for each other.

The piece is a wonderful amalgam of dialogue, reflection, music and movement; and they all work beautifully together. Daniel Jamieson’s script is peppered with intimate detail that can reveal a lifetime of emotions within a few short words, accentuated by Rice’s inventive staging. Ian Ross’s heart-rending score is a constant undercurrent that bursts to the surface with its leitmotifs; seamlessly taking over when words alone are not enough. Yet it is the central performances of the two actors, and their onstage chemistry, that draw us in. Like Pierrot and Columbine their physicality becomes an extra language, to say nothing of their gorgeous singing voices.

This is a rare gem of a piece of theatre. Seldom does humour and magic sit so comfortably alongside poignancy and heartache. Chagall’s success in Berlin and Paris is shadowed by wartime persecution of the Jews: their culture is celebrated here, but we are also reminded of the fact that we are witnessing a culture that was ravaged. But above all, we are sharing a love story and this show is a celebration of that, as well as the artist. More than uplifting; you can see why these lovers are flying.



Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Steve Tanner


Bristol Old Vic

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk

Live broadcasts from Bristol Old Vic until 5th December then streaming from 11th – 18th December via bristololdvic.org.uk


Recently reviewed by Jonathan:
The Great Gatsby | ★★★★★ | Immersive LDN | October 2020
The Last Five Years | ★★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | October 2020
The Off Key | ★★★ | White Bear Theatre | October 2020
What a Carve Up! | ★★★★★ | Online | October 2020
Little Wars | ★★★★ | Online | October 2020
Right Left With Heels | ★★★★ | Online | November 2020
Marry me a Little | ★★★★ | Online | November 2020
Rent | ★★★★★ | Online | November 2020
Falling Stars | ★★★★ | Online | November 2020
Ute Lemper: Rendezvous With Marlene | ★★★★★ | Online | November 2020


Click here to see our most recent reviews



Watermill Theatre & UK Tour



Watermill Theatre

Reviewed – 17th April 2019



“There were gasps of admiration from the audience at the moment one aspect of the set was revealed”


From book to film, book to stage or stage to film, literary works often make successful transitions to new media, but a theatrical interpretation of a film is one of the most difficult to pull off. How to cram all of the colour and spectacle of a much-loved feature on to a few square metres of bare boards? And how to make it work as a musical?

Amélie was an award-winning, quirky and nostalgic French romantic comedy released in 2001. Anyone who has seen it will have strong memories of its unique look and of the charismatic performance of Audrey Tautou as the shy waitress Amélie Poulain.

The Watermill Theatre is staging its own winning production of a musical adaptation of the film, written by Craig Lucas with lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Daniel Messé, who also wrote the music. Originally premiered in the US in 2017, this new version has been re-worked for a British audience. According to Director Mike Fentiman, ‘Amélie is a musical that seeks connections… [with a] strange, foreign, melancholic, philosophical, gentle, elusive world’.

Watching this celebration of Parisian life after the disastrous fire at Notre Dame was a particularly poignant experience. Almost the entire story of the film is told on stage in a series of twenty five musical episodes that amongst others reference Sondheim, Lloyd Webber and gospel music. Amélie is brought up in the seventies by remote parents that protect her from the real world and from real feelings. She works as a waitress in a Paris café populated by lonely eccentrics who she determines to try to help, until she finally finds love herself.

The writing is witty and satisfyingly avoids the obvious. The first number contains a lovely theme that recurs throughout the show, performed by the entire cast playing, amongst others piano, flute, percussion strings and an accordion. This is a multi-talented group of performers, led by the charismatic and ‘mignon’ French-Canadian Audrey Brisson, with Chris Jared as Nino Quincampoix, the photo-booth obsessive, with whom she quickly becomes fascinated. His singing voice is a delightfully mellow contrast to her brighter sound.

Since the story is set in Paris in the 1990s, there is even a rollicking pastiche by a brilliantly swaggering Caolan McCarthy of Elton John’s ‘Candle in the Wind’, which was performed in 1997 at the funeral of Princess Diana. When much of the rest of the show is so animated, Johnson Willis brought a pleasingly quiet poignancy to his portrayal of Dufayel, the ‘glass man’. There were other delightful moments from the entire cast, not least Samuel Morgan-Grahame as Joseph and Fluffy, who managed to make a simple telephone call hilarious.

The design, by prize-winning Madeleine Girling, is simply a marvel. The stage at the Watermill is tiny, and enormous creativity has gone into providing spaces in which to represent the film’s many scenes. There were gasps of admiration from the audience at the moment one aspect of the set was revealed, with some wonderful detailing that beautifully captured the spirit of the film.

Somehow two pianos (with some unexpected surprises within), a dozen performers acting and singing whilst playing violins, cellos, double bass, flute and accordion and a photo-booth on wheels all manage to simultaneously bring the small space to delightful life thanks to the immaculate direction of Michael Fentiman. Movement direction by Tom Jackson Greaves deserves a special mention.

This is a fast-moving, feel-good and heartily recommended show.


Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by  Pamela Raith 



Watermill Theatre until 18th May then UK Tour commences


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Teddy | ★★★★★ | January 2018
The Rivals | ★★★★★ | March 2018
Burke & Hare | ★★★★ | April 2018
A Midsummer Night’s Dream | ★★★★ | May 2018
Jerusalem | ★★★★★ | June 2018
Trial by Laughter | ★★★★ | September 2018
Jane Eyre | ★★★★ | October 2018
Robin Hood | ★★★★ | December 2018
Murder For Two | ★★★★ | February 2019
Macbeth | ★★★ | March 2019


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com