Alastair Whatley as Teddy and Olivia Hallinan as Patricia  in Flare Path. Photograph: Jack Ladenburg

Flare Path

Belgrade Theatre


TERENCE Rattigan’s Flare Path, set on a Lincolnshire airfield sometime in the early 1940s, sums up elegantly the spirit of wartime when lives and mores were turned upside down, for both men and women.

As the runway Flare Path lights up a safe way forward, the old pre-war morality starts to become unrecognisable.

 The Movies provide escapism personified here in fading but dashing Hollywood matinee idol Peter Kyle (Leon Ockenden) visiting The Falcon (without luggage?) hoping to rekindle his relationship with ‘old flame’ West End actress Patricia Warren (Olivia Hallinan) aka Mrs Teddy Graham.

Teddy Graham (Alastair Whatley), Bomber Command pilot, faces daily the real battle of life and death, and is sweetly unaware of his wife’s past or the choice between them she is asked to make.

While marvellous Mrs Oakes (Stephanie Jacob) and brilliant bell-boy Percy (James Cooney) run the hotel with old-fashioned efficiency amid wartime shortages and blackouts (and supply a good deal of the comedy), ‘Countess’ Doris (Siobhan O’Kelly), a barmaid, has married Polish airman Count Johnny Skriczensky (Adam Best) though fears that if he survives the war he will return to Poland without her.

Squadron Leader ‘Gloria’ Swanson (Philip Franks) supplies admirable admin and sympathy. On this ‘day in the life’ tail end gunner ‘Dusty’ Miller (Simon Darwen) has a rare visit from wife Maudie (Shvorne Marks) but that Bomber’s Moon calls them all out to face the enemy and their demons.

Four bombers take off at dead of night, only two limp home in the morning – one more, bearing the Count, is lost at sea for hours. Doris fetches the letter in French that he has written in case of his death. Peter Kyle is the only one able to translate and reluctantly reads out Johnny’s words of love. It is the pivotal point for at least two relationships.

There were some dodgy moments on stage and Doris being undecided on accents didn’t help in placing the play, somewhere between Edinburgh and Durham? The start pace was scarily slow and, though the set was impressive, there was a vast amount of unnecessary ‘toing and froing’ particularly up the stairs that slowed the pace even more. However, the bombers flying overhead was thoroughly convincing (and very loud), the dread of losing Johnny palpable and the whole show enjoyable.

Produced by The Original Theatre Company and directed by Justin Audibert, Flare Path flies to 7 November.

Jane Howard



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