Tag Archives: Daisy Maywood

“The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk” at Wilton’s Music Hall

It’s a delight that this early work from director Emma Rice and writer Daniel Jamieson has been revived and returns to London as part of a tour. Telling the tale of Bella and Marc Chagall, it’s a romance made blissful to watch by its combination of music, movement and imagery. Inspired by Marc’s paintings, flight is used a metaphor for love and applying this to the stage makes the show sky high with beauty, passion and emotion.

The performers are Marc Antolin and Daisy Maywood, who play the couple throughout their lives, as well as incidental characters along the way. Joined by multi-talented musicians James Gow and the show’s composer Ian Ross – whose music is integral to the piece – the singing is divine. The movement the piece demands, with choreography from Rice and Etta Murfitt, emphasises the trust actors and lovers have to have in one another and is a marvel: every limb performs, every action is considered.

From the start, Marc and Bella’s love at first sight is captivating. But their marriage is never free of tension. Chagall fell for his role as a genius early, it seems, and Bella suffered. It’s one of many triumphs that this formidable woman gets her side of the story told: it’s 50/50 all the way, with no trace of Bella a victim. Marc published his wife’s writing after her death, and admits that she could have been “hidden” by history. But not under Rice’s watch!

The past and memory are continually evoked as the Chagall story mirrors the momentous events of the Russian Revolution and World War II. The result is a portrayal of Jewish life as sensitive as Chagall’s own work, full of warmth, humour and, of course, the tragedy of anti-Semitism never far away. A scene where our wandering couple unpack their bags as they discuss the Holocaust uses the powerful symbolism of books and shoes in a breathtakingly simple manner.

What really elevates The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk is that Rice and Jamieson have created a uniquely theatrical experience that celebrates the power of make-believe. Highlighted by Bella’s own interest in the stage (which includes Marc’s assumption that she can’t work as she is a mother), imagination is the key to their love and the show. The invention that Rice employs is full of touches that have become her trademarks: the use of costume, and simple props that add humour, with cheeky nods to the mechanics of production. All engender a complicity with the audience that makes a crowd soar all the way through this show.

Until 10 February 2018, then on tour

www.kneehigh.co.uk

Photo by Steve Tanner

“Promises Promises” at the Southwark Playhouse

The credentials for this musical are impeccable: a book by Neil Simon, with music and lyrics fromBurt Bacharach and Hal David. That should be enough to get you booking tickets. The endearing, nostalgic piece follows the adventures of New Yorker Chuck, who lends his flat to his bosses for their extra-marital affairs, while his own love life flounders.

Adapted from the 1960 movie The Apartment, it’s the script that dominates. There’s a lot of Simon here – no bad thing – playing with cynicism, packing in jolly touches and good plotting. If the songs don’t fuse into a score in the manner that makes some musicals heavenly, they are great numbers, with a trip to the back catalogue sublimely incorporated as an extra treat.

Paul Robinson
Paul Robinson

The smooth sounds are well performed and Bronagh Lagan’s direction has a calm pace that’s appropriate – disguising how much work her dozen cast members are doing – so the show feels like relaxed fun. There’s swinging going on (it’s the Sixties, after all) but, despite the Mad Men vibe, evoked especially well by Paul Robinson as the arch philanderer Sheldrake, the tones are pastel and the atmosphere oh-so cool.

Gabriel Vick and Alex Young
Gabriel Vick and Alex Young

Darker shades are present and handled well by leading lady Daisy Maywood, whose character Fran is driven to attempt suicide. The sobering moments are a little jarring and stem from the sexism within Promises Promises itself. Women are, literally, backing singers, playing secretaries and ‘pick ups’ (providing a blissful cameo for Alex Young). And the office Christmas party would give an HR department a fit. Lagan deals cleverly with the unsavoury middle-aged executives, presenting a collection of more sad than mad men that we can laugh at. It’s a sensible move, and the cast makes it work for them.

The saving grace is our heroine, at times displaying an emotional depth that overwhelms the show – welcome nonetheless – and Maywood’s acting is as strong as her powerful voice. The equally impressive Gabriel Vick, playing Chuck, joins her. Ostensibly, this is his character’s story. He’s a “puny” figure that Vick makes winning with perfectly pitched direct addresses to the audience. Fantasy conversations only endear us to him further. It’s the two leads who make the show, culminating in a gorgeous duet that is the fulfilment of all the talent on offer.

Until 18 February 2017

www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk

Photos by Claire Bilyard