Reviewer: Mary Moncrieff
Set in a lovely little hotel lounge, The Original Theatre and Birdsong’s production of Terence Rattigan’s Flare Path at Birmingham Repertory Theatre is a romanticised story of Air Force soldiers’ lives during the Second World War.
Daniel Fraser plays Flight Lieutenant Teddy Graham, a skipper with a dark secret, who is married to Patricia Warren, an actress. Their fledgeling marriage is threatened by Peter Kyle, a Hollywood heartthrob played deliciously by Lynden Edwards.
Backed brilliantly by Claire Andreadis’ Countess Doris Skriczevinsky, married to a bumbling count from Poland, and Sergeant Dusty Miller (Jamie Hogarth), a London bloke with a dotty wife, the cast plays trippingly though Rattigan’s period dialogue. Especially notable is the cast’s ability to honestly portray the massive amounts of “air force lingo” included in the play. From “shaky dos” to “U Uncle aircraft” their comfort with the text (no doubt due in some part to Tony Green’s Military Advisory role) allows the audience to be entirely enveloped in the world of the play.
It is Fraser, Andreadis and Edwards who carry the show. Fraser’s standout scene in which he reveals a hard truth to his wife is touching and tough to watch. The most poignant moment comes when Peter Kyle must translate a love letter for Doris from her husband, and this adroit ploy in Rattigan’s writing brings the audience to tears. The production is worth seeing to take in Andreadis’ perfectly poised and funny portrayal of The Countess.
Graham Seed’s flamboyant Squadron Leader Swanson is often inappropriate and nonsensical, giving one lukewarm feelings towards his top billing. Hedydd Dylan’s Patricia Warren leaves something to be desired as well, though lovely to look at, she lacks the grace and presence necessary to portray an actress of the Rattigan era. Mrs. Oakes, the manager of the Falcon Hotel, is played by Audrey Palmer with stature, snark and an excellent sense of old school values. Her repartee with Peter Kyle is enjoyable and memorable.
Supported by a handsome set design and a clever bit of lighting, the cast is dressed beautifully by Hayley Grindle. Dominic Bilkey’s sound design expertly interweaves period music with the heavy, oppressive sound of aircraft that dominates the senses both consciously and often unconsciously.
Ultimately a play with no villains but the Germans, Flare Path ends happily, allowing the audience to reflect on World War II without feeling entirely betrayed by their theatrical experience.
Runs until: 30 April 2016 and then touring till 7 May 2016