Adaptor: Oliver Emanuel
Directors: Jamie Harrison and Candice Edmunds
Flight is a thing of wonder. Seated in a darkened booth you watch a carousel slowly turn to reveal a series of exquisitely lit boxes that tell the story of two boys crossing Europe from Afghanistan. Created by Vox Motus, this show is like no other; it is heart-breaking and humbling.
Presented in conjunction with the Barbican, Flight starts with another kind of journey as audience members are escorted through the labyrinthine corridors underneath The Bridge Theatre. Eventually you are shown your chair and asked to wear the (sanitised) headphones that hang on the wall beside you. As the huge drum in front of you revolves lights come on to show figurines and landscapes that illustrate the story of Kabir and Aryan as they flee their country for a better life.
With only one or two sources of light in each box, scenes often resemble Caravaggio paintings with their chiaroscuro effects. And like the Baroque artist’s work, each scene is full of drama. One small box just shows the head of Kabir, the younger brother, but look closer and see the single tear that runs down his cheek. Some boxes are dimly lit and these invite you to move closer and examine what’s happening in the shadows. And while most of the boxes are shallow, others like the one that holds the motorway stretching impossibly into the distance, run deep into the carousel.
The concept may seem geared to a younger audience, but the story is brutal as the two boys meet people-smugglers across Europe, prepared only to help at a price. French border officials are represented by callous seagulls, sending the boys back to Italy or stealing their trainers. Flight, adapted from a book by Caroline Brothers, is a story for adults, despite the sense of the funfair that the carousel conjures.
While the tableaux may be the draw here, the sound design by Mark Melville sympathetically carries the audience from seaside towns to city streets, and is, in a few places, as affecting as the boxed-scenes. It may be only 45-minutes long, but Flight is harrowing as much as it is beautiful.
It’s expected that Flight will return after Tier Three restrictions are lifted, but there is a sense that the carousel will quietly turn on its own, without watchers, in the meantime. And desperate people will still try to reach Britain’s shores.
Reviewed on 14 December 2020