Tuesday, 5 April 2011

REVIEW: Flare Path

Dir.: Trevor Nunn
With: Sienna Miller, Harry Hadden-Paton, James Purefoy.

Yay my first theatre review! Are you excited? I am well excited. I won’t pretend to know much about theatre as an art form, so here are my modest views on this modern revival of Terrence Rattigan’s “Flare Path” from 1942.

It is set in a hotel lobby in Lincolnshire near a RAF base. There are three couples: three pilots with their wives who are planning on spending the weekend together. A London actress, Patricia (Sienna Miller) and Teddy (Harry Hadden-Paton) have recently been married, Maudie (Kathleen Harrison) and Dusty (Leslie Dwyer) are the somewhat less glamorous and more austere couple and Doris (Sheridan Smith) and Count Skriczevinsky (Gerard Hinze) are the comedic duo comprising of an ex-bar maid and a Polish count who joined the British air force. And on top of all things, Peter (James Purefoy), Patricia’s old flame and an ageing film star, checks into the hotel for the night in order to wreak havoc and steal Patricia back, much like a fox in a hen house. At the same time, the pilots are unexpectedly required to take part in an air raid on Germany.

The play starts off very slowly, the characters are introduced one by one and it is only in the second scene (there are four in total) that things begin to pick up. In the second half I found myself clutching the seat, leaning forward and muttering ‘fuck fuck they’ll be found out!!’ or ‘shit shit he is dead!’, so, evidently, I was very much engaged in the illicit affair, the air raid and the unstable relationships between the characters. Although Sienna Miller is the supposed star of the show, “Flare Path” is an ensemble work. I thought the acting was of a high standard; Teddy was one of my favourite characters with his devil-may-care outer shell, whereas in reality his psyche has been very much damaged by the war. Peter Kyle, the film star, was at times the most repulsive character, but in the end his weaknesses made him very human and you inevitably ended up feeling sorry for him and for his washed-up life.  Sienna Miller made a very good trophy wife, a showpiece, who has no real connection to her husband and broods on her past. The dilemma of deciding which man is more suitable for her is nicely played out in a series of very tense dialogues.

However, the drama of the relationship problems seems petty when the audience is confronted with the reality of war. When the three pilots leave for the air raid, you suddenly realise that whatever the three women waiting for them must be feeling, is beyond any ordinary desperation and hope. There is also a high level of humour in this play, mostly poking fun at the stereotype of the English stiff upper lip and inability to fully express emotions, especially in the military.  Most laughs were caused by the Polish count and his Borat-like accent. It was rather clever how the colour of each woman’s dress reflected her character – regal navy blue for Patricia, bright magenta for Doris and a puritan light brown for Maudie. Sienna Miller also happens to have the most beautiful head of hair I have ever seen. I kind of wanted to stroke it.

I can only recommend “Flare Path”, it is a clever, at times sad and at other times funny, example of a traditional English theatre play, with a great ensemble cast. It is by no means groundbreaking or challenging, however, sometimes you just want something a little more old-school to enjoy.

“Flare Path” is currently on at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London.

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