A new work by Heiner Goebbels
Produced by Artangel
Co-presented by Artangel and MIF
The world première of Everything that happened and would happen opens with a huge set comprised of veiled exhibition pieces. Goebbels’ opener is an allusion to the Great Exposition of 1900, which the organisers said “will define the philosophy and express the synthesis of the 19th century”. This new work is inspired by Patrik Ouředník’s Europeana or A Brief History of The Twentieth Century, the epic Europeas 1&2 by John Cage and by daily updates from No Comment footage from Euronews. Blending performance, concert, installation and history lesson with stunning visual effects, this is truly a polyphony that brings European influence unto a British stage where so many of us hope it remains regardless of what Brexit may bring.
Devised especially for Mayfield, which opened 4 years before the start of WWI, this production reflects major events in Europe throughout the last 100 years. With five musicians side of stage and 12 performers in constant movement as they configure new scenes, the overall feeling is incredibly powerful and mesmerising. This is like watching a crash course in set building and design. Performers are clad in black boiler suits and brightly coloured socks which may be a witty illusion to individuality and perhaps an acknowledgement of the range of ethnicities in Europe today. Watching the performers assemble and disassemble art installations,folding and unfolding fabric screens like huge maps, pushing and pulling landmasses, it is graceful and reflective. It is also clearly performed with the military precision of soldiers on a battlefield.
The set pieces are often visually startling such as the projections which evoke the digital age, displacing and distorting as the world shifts. In a recurring theme nothing is as it seems, as the age blistered pillars of Mayfield fleetingly become shiny steel, or familiar shapes distort and evolve into something else. The Chinese Dragon in the final scenes bleeds into a landscape that is a haunting evocation of Europe, past and present. Illuminated laundry baskets whirl around the stage with seemingly magical contents but in the end are casually popped, being nothing more than bubble wrap. Gas lit scenes have hazy trees hung from an impressive rigging system that evoke a ravaged forest and the No Mans Land of WW1. Later the same rigging is utilised to project news images from Euronews showing current scenes of protests such as those against Kavanaugh in America.
This is a powerful and provocative piece of work. It questions the ownership of ideas, culture and land. The push/pull of shifting land borders and the building up and tearing down of countries and their infrastructures is clearly evident throughout the work, which also suggests the pertinent question of do we continue to repeat the patterns and mistakes of our past? As Brexit becomes closer to being realised it is surely a question we need to heed and act on. Are we destined to keep learning the same lesson but choose to believe it means something else?
Mayfield 10 – 21 October
Production images by Thannasis Deligiannis
Writer Daniel Jamieson
Director & Co-Choreographer Emma Rice
Kneehigh & Bristol Old Vic
Originally performed as Birthday over 25 years ago The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk is a celebration of love and art on so many levels. The love child of writer Daniel Jamieson and director Emma Rice who also acted in the original,it was revived in 2016 and has been a hugely successful production for Kneehigh and Bristol Old Vic. This lush homage to another set of young lovers- artist Marc Chagall and his beloved muse and first wife Bella Rosenfeld paints a picture on the stage that is both sensual and transcendent.
The love story is told in flashbacks as a widowed Chagall recounts the romance over the telephone to his son-in-law, the art historian Franz Mayer. They met and fell in love in Vitebsk, Belarus in 1909 and married in 1915 when Chagall returned from successes in Paris and Berlin. Trapped in Russia because of WW1, they were to witness the Russian Revolution and Chagall established the Vitebsk Arts College and painted in the Moscow New Jewish Theatre. Bella gave birth to their daughter Ida and carried on her own writing. They later fled to Europe, before WW2 and the Holocaust forced them to escape France on 1941 for America where Bella died in 1944.
The central performances are flawless. Marc Artolin and Daisy Maywood are utterly believable and sing, dance and emote with a form of enhanced theatricality that perfectly fits this dreamy, magical piece. The sense of a place so vibrant and colourful reduced by war to memories and black and white postcards is beautifully evoked. Every movement is choreographed to create a sense of immersion in Chagall’s paintings and in their hopes and dreams, and their visual and sensory world. Also on stage throughout are multi-instrumentalists Ian Ross and James Gow who bring another layer of rich authenticity playing music with French, Yiddish and Russian influences and a definite klezmer vibe.
Magical touches like a red helium balloon floating away as a fleeting love interest blushing like a radish. Colourful hats portraying animals from his paintings and symbolic fruits like the etrog are images from a lost world as the honeymoon trunk is unpacked. The inspired wit of using puppetry chairs to allow the lovers to dance the Hora or chair dance at their wedding which symbolises that in a good marriage you always strive to go ever higher, as these soaring lovers did in so many of his paintings. There are moments where images from paintings come to life through tableau scenes like when a canvas of a rabbi is unfolded in front of Bella and her own arms come through it as life and art merge.
Designer Sophie Clist has created a set which is compressed yet airy. It allows paintings to come to life and lovers to soar. It also gives a sense of a boat at sea, a reminder of the dispossessed on the move, always either leaving or returning. The lighting by Malcolm Rippeth has all the vibrancy of classic Kneehigh productions but in this piece is even more potent. The painterly depth and richness feels almost visceral at times with the wedding scene having a neon quality. Everything here is heightened and vital, from the tick of a clock and the slow drip from the ceiling to the lily white face and blackberry curls with eyes so blue like splinters from heaven.
Rice and Jamieson have created something of timeless tenderness. A lost world is seen again as we walk in the lover’s shoes through extraordinary times in history. The unpacking of the shoes and journals is utterly poignant, a reminder of so many journeys and stories recorded, and evoking the piles of shoes in Auschwitz belonging to the Jews who couldn’t escape. Chagall comes vividly to life as a pioneer of Modernism and as one of the most famous Jewish artists of the twentieth century. His Bella is painted as he saw her long flying over my canvas guiding my art…..Love and fantasy go hand in hand.
HOME until April 7th
Images by Steve Tanner