2nd attempt at posting so here's hoping!
I have seldom heard an audience as quiet as during trevor Nunn's superb revival of Rattigan's Flare Path. You felt completely drawn in to the events onstage sharing all the highs and lows of the emotions experienced by the bomber crew and their loved ones. At one point you could feel the disapproval of the Americanised film star swanning around in civvies and threatening the marriage of one of the pilots. I was a bit unsure about the happy ending but it is understandable that rattigan wanted to give a wartime audience something to be optimistic about, but he also provides an unflinching portrayal of the terrifying pressure suffered by the young airmen who were all too aware of their slim chances of survival. There is not a weak link in a superb cast. James Purefoy is eminently hissable as the film star ovesexed and over here. Sheridan Smith is wonderful as Doris, a barmaid come Polish countess struggling to maintain her humour and composure in the most desperate circumstances. Sienna Miller is also very good as the wavering actress. I have seen her in three plays now in London and New York and she is proving to be a more natural stage performer than Keira Knightley, although each play has seen similar characters in a 1940s setting. I am sure she will prove to be more versatile if given the opportunity. I have found some of Trevor Nunn's recent efforts to be rather dour and long-winded but Flare Path is a triumph and deserves to emulate After the Dance to reap awards for another great Rattigan revival. - David Baxter
05 May 11
Steve has said it all. This is one of the finest plays I have seen with magnificent performances from all but Sienna Miller who is more than adequate if too much of a fidget. A "must see" show. Trevor Nunn is obviously at the height of his powers. - Carrie
29 Apr 11
A fantastic production, beautifully staged with a cast that deliver some fine performances. Stand out for me was the wonderful Sheridan Smith who totally inhabits her role, bringing a great honesty to the part. That said the whole ensemble makes the play. The scenes at the end of the first act where the bombers are taking off gave me goosebumps - incredibly powerful and what follows showed the power of war and the sacrifices of those who fought in it. - Paul Wallis
05 Apr 11
For me, this is undoubtedly the best theatre in London: a flawless production of a brilliant play. Rattigan continues to go up in my estimation! Every bit as good as last year's "After the Dance," this production contains heartbreaking performances by Harry Hadden-Paton, Sheridan Smith and Sienna Miller, and yet there are just as many spot-on comedic moments as there are tear-jerking ones. Rattigan explosively probes behind the stiff upper lip of many of the characters, while making that same trait seem so incredibly important in a time of war. And in a time of war, love affairs seem so very very petty. Superb! - Steve
03 Apr 11
Just back from seeing this brilliant play and the set was atmospheric and what a great cast. Good to see James Purefoy and Sienna Miller on stage but the best acting was for me Harry Hadden-Paton as Teddy and the Great Sheridan Smith as Doris and she proves what a great actress she is in both Musicals and Plays. Mind you I am such a fan of Sheridan's that she could play hamlet with a paper bag over her head and she would still be great for me. Thanks to the great ensemble for bringing this Rattigan play such great life. - Joe Spiteri
17 Mar 11
What a load of old cobblers! School play level direction from Nunn(again) and wild mis-casting in nearly every part, from the utter incompetence of the film star to the Thora Hird style overplaying of the TV commedienne. Any play that takes 90 minutes to set up the flimsy plot and semaphores and then explains the jokes (including the painfully obvious 'Gloria' one) is well past its sell-by. I can't imagine what show the 5 star ravers below have been to. - The voice of reason
16 Mar 11
Flare Path is a brilliant show! Sheridan Smith is fantastic as Doris an ex-barmaid, her performance was outstanding, her tears were so believable that she had most of the audience crying with her! Harry Hadden-Paton as Teddy also gave an excellent performance, the audience really empathised with him at times in the play!
When saw the play the audience seemed to be mostly of the older generation, however I am
only 16 and I thought it was great, I would certainly go again! Anyone of any age would enjoy this play, it's funny at times, emotional in others! It's very well written, and the actors are superb! Anyone who has the opportunity to see Flare Path should definatly go! :) - Chloe
16 Mar 11
I’ve always thought Britain didn’t produce 20th century dramatists to equal the three great Americans – Miller, Tennessee Williams and O’Neil. After The Dance at the NT last year was a nudge in the ribs, but here’s a poke in the stomach; by the end of this centenary year, I may have to bury such thoughts for good. In Flare Path, we’re at a hotel next to an airbase at wartime where aircrew are staying – Teddy, a seemingly gung-ho Flight Lieutenant whose inner insecurities are revealed as the play progresses, down-to-earth bomber Dusty doing his bit and trying to stay alive and a Polish Count set on revenge and a heroic death. Teddy’s married to a glamorous actress and can’t quite believe his luck, Dusty’s equally down-to-earth wife is a bit of a nag but clearly worships him and the Count has swept a barmaid off her feet despite their inability to communicate in English. We stay with the wives waiting for the return of their men from bombing raids and live the tension, relief and celebrations before, during and after the missions. The arrival of Teddy’s wife’s old flame – a Hollywood matinée idol – provides an additional tension to be resolved.
You can tell that Rattigan, a Second World War airman himself, knew exactly what these people were going through and it results in a set of characterisations of great depth. In any other play / production, Sheridan Smith – fresh from her wonderful Olivier Award winning musical comedy turn in Legally Blonde – would steal the show. She moves from chirpy ex-barmaid and social catalyst to tragic wife on the turn of her face and her real tears triggered real tears in the audience. The day after bagging the Olivier for a musical, she must already be on the list for another in a play……but there are nine other exceptional performances – yes, nine! – so casting Director Maggie Lunn must get a mention. It must be much harder to play an unsympathetic character than a sympathetic one (or a downright baddie) but James Purefoy manages it superbly – every inch the Hollywood heart-throb who eventually exposes his inner emotional core. Harry Hadden-Paton and Sienna Miller grow into the roles of Teddy and his wife as the play progresses and the depths of their characters are revealed, but for some reason Miller’s appearance is the only one that doesn’t quite seem 1940′s. We empathise easily with Mark Dexter’s tongue-tied defiant Polish Count, as we do with Joe Armstrong as wartime everyman Dusty and Emma Handy as his wife visiting for just one night. There are lovely cameos from Sarah Crowden as the battle-axe hotelier, Matthew Tennyson (still at drama school!) as her barman son and Clive Wood’s archetypal Squadron Leader, determined to keep up the spirit and morale of the boys. Trevor Nunn’s detailed and subtle production grips you for every minute of its 150 minute running time. Stephen Brimson Lewis has created another of those period sets that simply take you to the location and the period, and the projections and sound used to convey the take-offs are excellent.
If this were the only revival for the Rattigan centenary, it would do him proud; but there’s a lot more to come yet. My withdrawal symptoms following After the Dance have been temporarily sated, but I’m now even more excited about what’s to come, but if I have a more satisfying evening in the theatre this year, I shall be a very lucky boy indeed. By now, you should be on the web or the phone because you just cannot give this a miss.
- Gareth James
15 Mar 11
Saw this on the opening night - an extremely well crafted and presented interpretation. The skill was in the delivery of the sub text and showing the 'not showing' of emotion. Brilliant. - Iris Dew
14 Mar 11
Sorry - I can't review the performance as I'm on the wrong side of the Atlantic, but I would like to point out (from a recent reading of the play) that Clive Wood's character is nicknamed "Gloria" because his last name is Swanson. As in "Gloria Swanson," a famous actress of the day. It's the the sort of word association nickname typical of the era and has nothing to do with the character's personality, except that it seems to be given affectionately. - Peggy Stone
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