dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Rattigan's tale of war and love takes to the skies
Terence Rattigan's war-time drama takes place in a hotel from which the staff and residents can see the bombers as they leave for and return from their raids.
And while there is terrifying drama in the skies, there's no shortage of fireworks down on the ground as a group of airmen and their wives spend one tense night together. At the forefront of the tale is a love triangle in which one woman, Patricia, has to choose between her former lover and her current husband – but all plans go awry when the air crews are suddenly called up for a mission.
As a former member of the RAF, Rattigan understood the fears and uncertainties of those who took to the skies and vividly portrays this through the experiences of these airmen and their wives.
Hedydd Dylan takes the part of Patricia, a woman torn between duty and love – and as the night progresses Patricia realises that the two are not as clearly separated as she had thought. Daniel Fraser is thoroughly likeable as her husband Teddy, a captain all depend on and yet who hides his own paralysing fear of the sorties. Lynden Edwards has the more ambivalent role of Peter – a man determined to get his own way and have the woman he loves.
Lynden Edwards and Hedydd Dylan in Flare Path
The trio are given ample support from all of the cast including Graham Seed (best known for playing Nigel Pargetter in The Archers) whose squadron leader Swanson is an amiable leader who will sleep on the sofa in support of his men. Claire Andreadis is the outwardly cheerful countess whose odd marriage is based in true love and compassion while William Reay does a solid job as her Polish husband.
Directed by Justin Audibert and presented by The Original Theatre Company and Birdsong Production Ltd, the production also retains Rattigan's slightly sardonic humour while still delivering on its more sombre themes. Hayley Grindle's set and costumes set it firmly in its period while the huge window at the rear ensures we never quite forget how close to the flare path this drama is.
For a time Rattigan's plays fell out of favour but this production reminds us why his writing remains so relevant today. While few of us have to worry about bombing raids, the human battles played out in this hotel are very much the modern experience.
Flare Path runs at Birmingham Repertory Theatre until April 30 as part of a national tour.