In 1975 when Chagall was 88, he illustrated an edition of Shakespeare’s magical play The Tempest, perhaps feeling an affinity with Prospero the magician and prince, who gives up his ‘rough magic’ at the play’s end. The first UK exhibition of this rare and limited portfolio is currently on view at the Ben Uri gallery. Curator Hanna Scolnicov, Professor emerita of Tel Aviv University (left in above photo), talks to JR’s arts editor Judi Herman (above right) about how Chagall came to illustrate the edition and takes listeners on an audio tour of the exhibition, stopping at her favourite images.
A Farewell to Art: Chagall, Shakespeare and Prospero runs until Sunday 11 February. Ben Uri Gallery, NW8 0RH. 020 7604 3991. www.benuri.org.uk
See Scolnicov’s selected images below.
Brecht’s meditation on war usually gets the loud, raucous in-yer-face treatment from directors. Hannah Chissick’s production of Tony Kushner’s urgent translation, which has an all too contemporary resonance as refugees flee wars across continents, is no exception. Yet Josie Lawrence’s Courage finds moments of quiet – albeit quiet desperation – which are much needed breathers on the gruelling journey through 30 years of war across a ravaged Europe. The desperation is for her children’s plight. She is always the conflicted mother as well as the often unscrupulous wheeler dealer – forced to pay a terrible price to survive, even thrive in the theatre of war. And though she is palpably grungy, Lawrence’s Courage is also younger and sexier than I have seen before, an attractive catch for the Chaplain and the Cook (convincing David Shelley and Ben Fox), who hitch lifts on her supply wagon across those battlefields.
Imagine yourself imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto, 1942, facing the dilemma of whether or not to stand up to your Nazi persecutors. You are one of a company of Jewish actors confined there, determined to stage a play about the siege of Masada in 66BC. The siege ended in the mass suicide of the Jews defending the mountain fortress as the Roman besiegers stormed it, so it has long been a symbol of valiant Jewish resistance to persecution. A poem telling this story is said to have inspired the Warsaw uprising, and it’s upon this premise that Shuki Levy (music), David Goldsmith (lyrics) and Glenn Berenbeim (book) based this valiant musical attempt to bring the two uprisings together. Sasha Regan’s award-winning Union Theatre has a fine track record of small-scale musical revivals and it certainly succeeds better than the full-blown 2008 New London Theatre premiere.