Marc and Bella Chagall were the flying lovers of Vitebsk. Partners in life and on canvas, they are immortalised as the picture of romance. But whilst on canvas they flew, in life they walked through some of the most devastating times in history.
Emma Rice directs Marc Antolin, who reprises his role as Chagall. Joining him as his wife Bella is Daisy Maywood, in Daniel Jamieson’s critically acclaimed and dazzling play, vividly drawn from the early life of this iconic artist.
We sat down with Marc and Daisy to find out more about this incredible real life couple.
The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk is at Wilton’s Music Hall before a major tour, what can you tell us about it?
Daisy: Artist Marc Chagall and writer Bella Rosenfeld met and married in Belarus in 1909. Together they achieved the extraordinary in the face of two world wars and the Russian revolution. Director Emma Rice and writer Daniel Jamieson have condensed the Chagall’s lives in to 90 minutes of delicate, heartfelt, playful theatre. Combining music, movement and text the show is as vivid as one of Marc’s paintings!
How much did you know about Marc and Bella Chagall before taking on the role?
Marc: Before taking on the role of Marc Chagall, I had fallen in love with a stain glass window of his in Chichester Cathedral. I was doing a play called “Taken At Midnight” in the Minerva theatre, playing an amateur artist and Chagall was referenced. I went to seek out the window and I caught it at the right time of day as the sun streamed through it. I was taken back by the brilliance of the red most prominent in this particular window. Once I got offered the role, I went to the Chagall museum in Nice to see more of his work.
Daisy: I knew of Marc and adore his paintings but I’m ashamed to say I knew nothing of Bella, other than what Marc painted. That’s all changed now of course. A writer, an actress, fiercely intelligent and no walk over. Would Marc have achieved all he did without her? Who knows!
Marc, you’ve played the role before, how connected do you now feel to Marc Chagall
Well, obviously my own name is Marc spelt with a C after Marc Chagall (Not really, I’m named after Marc Bolan) I did have a surreal moment recently where I went to see a Russian Revolution art exhibition at the Royal Academy. I didn’t know that Chagall’s The Promenade” was featured. I spotted it a mile off and almost ran towards it. It is such a beautiful painting and I did get a bit teary to see it up close and felt an incredible rush of pride as if it were my own.
Daisy, how has Emma Rice, as director, inspired your performance?
There’s a reason so many actors want to work with Emma. She makes imaginative, inventive, playful, witty, romantic theatre. Get out of your own head and revel in the joy of telling stories. That’s what I’ve learnt. She’s a wonder.
Marc and Bella witnessed some of the biggest moments in history, which would you liked to have seen first hand?
Daisy: Bella and Marc lived through some of modern history’s most traumatic events. The horror of two world wars and the attempt to wipe out their heritage and identity are not something I would want to experience. However, amongst it all they were at the forefront of an artistic revolution which must have been exhilarating.
Marc: The incredible thing about performing this piece is how relevant so much of it is today; refugees fleeing their own countries, people being discriminated, change in political parties, dictators. It is all happening now and in the same way that Marc and Bella survived we have to remember that we always have love and art to keep us going and telling these stories.
After Wilton’s your taking the show to Beverly Hills, before returning to a UK tour, what are you most looking forward to about the tour, and the Californian trip?
Marc: LA is obviously pretty exciting, escaping the British winter for a bit and we’ll be there during the Oscars, so if you know anyone that has a spare ticket, let me know. Most of the venues in the UK are places I’ve never been to and brilliant producing theatres that do such incredible work. I’m so looking forward to seeing how different communities respond to this beautiful show.
Daisy: I’ve never been to America so I’m really looking forward to our time in L.A and South Carolina. I might try and squeeze in some other cities whilst over there. I’ve also never toured before so I’m looking forward to hanging out with lovely people and taking the show around the country.
Bella was Marc’s muse, who do you consider to be your muse?
Daisy: My friend Golda introduced me to Dr Maya Angelou (not physically, unfortunately) and although not a muse I’d say she’s an inspiration. Her outlook and approach to life was witty and flirtatious and ferocious and I think she’s wonderful.
Marc: I’m constantly being inspired by things and people so to pin point one muse would be an incredibly difficult decision. I love watching theatre actors, it’s where we get to properly play and I’ve learnt so much from them. Some of my heroes growing up were Gene Wilder, Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean, Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers, French and Saunders and Charlie Chaplin and I’ve realised recently that probably all of those have influenced me and my work.
The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk is at Wilton’s Music Hall until 10th February and then on tour, full details here.