Tonight We Fly

FRANK CLIFF Trestle Theatre at the New Cut, Halesworth; on tour until mid April.


For a painter to have lost most of his work three times before the age of 35 might – to paraphrase Oscar Wilde – look like carelessness, but it was, so director Toby Wilsher tells us this bizarre situation which first led him to devise the latest production for the ever-enterprising Trestle Theatre Company, a life of Marc Chagall: Tonight We Fly.

Wilsher has created a fantastically imaginative piece of theatre; a mixture of narrative, live music and mime; a sort of modern masque, magical to hear and see.

Darren Tunstall has written the dialogue for the central performance, a tour de force by Edmund Harcourt as Chagall, the only speaking character who narrates the passion, humour and sadness of his life in a compelling performance.

The pitched roofs and trap doors of the ingenious set serve equally for amongst other things, Chagall's native Vitebsk and his years in Paris, but much of the visual effect is due to the use of masks – a Trestle Theatre hallmark.

These are inspired by Chagall's paintings: outsize masks, their features exaggerated in ways which distil the essence of a character; the sadness of Chagall's introvert friend Viktor, the vulnerability of Bella his wife and muse, so that the smallest gesture of the masked actors seems expressive. These actors also double as musicians, playing the Klempzer music which contributes so much to the atmosphere.

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That it fizzles out somewhat abruptly after Bella's death detracts little from this magical piece. Tours until mid April and worth a long journey to see.