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Those Magnificent Men

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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This play tells the story of the first ever non-stop transatlantic flight, achieved by British pilot John Alcock and navigator Arthur Whitten Brown in 1919. The show is pacey, moving the story from the announcement of the challenge (with a prize of £10,000) in 1913, through a brief precis of Alcock and Brown's respective experiences of World War Two, to the meeting of the two men and their eventual pioneering flight from Newfoundland to Galway.

Alcock (Ian Shaw) is portrayed with traditional British stiff upper lip; Brown (Richard Earl) is much more excitable. This personality clash provides plenty of humour, as does the frequent breaking from the story for the characters to discuss their particular views on how the tale should be told. Alcock wants a focus on historical facts, whereas Brown wants to embellish it to make it worthy of a blockbuster movie.

The staging is charming and highly evocative of the era, with some extremely inventive use of packing cases, trestle tables and scaffolding poles. The lighting and sound add hugely to the drama of the recreation of the flight, and there are some beautifully hammy Newfoundland, Australian and Irish accents in evidence.

All in all, this is a highly enjoyable piece of theatre, with plenty of facts for the geeks and much to keep the whole audience, old and young, entertained.

- Emma Watkins


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