Flare Path – Richmond Theatre

Leon Ockenden, Olivia Hallinan, Siobhán O'Kelly, Philip Franks, Shvorne Marks in FLARE PATH (photo Jack Ladenburg)Upon entering the auditorium , the audience is submerged by the plays 1940s war time setting, from the period music to the nostalgic hotel set. New to the world of Rattigan, I was unsure what to expect. But it’s safe to say I did not leave Richmond theatre disappointed.

Set against the back drop of a Second World War airforce base, Flare Path delves into the lives of a group of airforce pilots and their loved ones. Interspersed with the story of two estranged lovers, the play focusses on how these relationships are affected by war.

Rattigan’s hilariously witty script had the audience in stitches from the off, which was only complemented further by some stellar comedic performances from the cast. The smaller ensemble roles were incredibly amusing and endearing to the audience, making their more thoughtful moments later in the play all the more heartbreaking.

A performance that stood out in particular was that of Alastair Whatley as flight lieutenant Graham. His boyish charm and expertly executed comedic turns reminded one of a young Hugh Laurie circa the Blackadder years.

Unfortunately I struggled a lot more with the relationship between Peter (Leon Ockenden) and Patricia (Olivia Hallinan). I found them very hard to warm to throughout, and their characters seemed to be more like exaggerated caricatures of themselves, unlike the other characters who came across very naturalistically. This may well have been what the director had intended, yet I found it rather jarring from the rest of the piece.

The simple ‘one room’ set served its propose well , however I found the scene transitions to be rather clumsy in places when they could have been a lot smoother. Dominic Bilkey’s sound design was a particular highlight of the piece, bringing the surrounding aircraft very much into the auditorium.

I found parts of act two particularly moving. The contrast in the auditorium from the earlier laughter to deathly silence highlighted the power of the piece. Leaving the theatre and being greeted by British legion charity collectors, reminded us that what we had seen, was a very real part of our recent history.

A nicely portrayed homage to the British war effort and and certainly worth catching if you can. ‘Flare path’ runs at the Richmond theatre until Saturday 5th of September 2015.

Reviewed by Laura Cooper
Photo: Jack Ladenburg