Writer: Terence Rattigan
Director: Justin Audibert
Reviewer: Jo Payne
Flare Path is one of those rare productions which requires only one location – the residents’ lounge of the Falcon Hotel in Milchester, Lincolnshire – to effortlessly lure the audience into its time period and the lives of its characters. Some, particularly the Countess, Doris (Claire Andreadis), feel more like friends than characters as the play concludes and the fine performances from the entire cast easily instil empathy in those watching.
Set against a backdrop of World War Two, Flare Path tells the story of a team from the Royal Air Force, their wives and a few of their acquaintances. The entire plot takes place in under 24 hours, with the pilots and their wives entering and leaving the hotel during that time. As the posters suggest, the story is ultimately about love. One striking realisation which the dialogue brings about is how fast and seemingly fragile wartime romance could be.
A plethora of contrasting characters fill the stage throughout the play. Peter Kyle (Lynden Edwards) has spent most of his recent years as a famous actor, Mrs Oakes (Audrey Palmer) runs the hotel and ensures everyone knows it and Maudie Miller (Polly Hughes) is a personal favourite of the wives who rarely leaves her comfort zone but supports and loves her husband dearly. Although most of the action revolves around Patricia Warren (Hedydd Dylan) and her quest to choose her future from the options in front of her, the peripheral relationships, those of Maudie and Dusty (Jamie Hogarth) and the Count (William Reay) and Countess, shape the fundamental heart of the story.
While tales of love intertwine, humour and mystery are also rife. Count Skriczevinsky is a brilliant addition to the cast; his words are few but his impact is lasting. The dialogue is witty and cues are impeccably-timed. Occasionally, questions hang in the air and there are unsaid words which continue the narrative beyond the script. The set is a simply-decorated room which is cleverly angled to ensure each area is visible to all throughout the show. Using an effective mixture of lighting and appropriate sound, the audience experience the feeling of planes taking off and landing on the nearby airstrip.
As well as being a charming story with believable characters, Flare Path leaves the audience with a valuable reminder of the fragility of life and the importance of those who risk theirs regularly. Its core has longevity far beyond that of the time in which it is set so it is able to touch those who didn’t experience the horrors of war while also bringing a sense of nostalgia to those who did.
Runs until 30 January 2016 | Image: Jack Ladenburg