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Blue Sky

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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What happens when you combine an investigative journalist with an avid plane-spotter and his political blogger daughter? Well, not as much as you might expect in this new drama from Clare Bayley for Pentabus theatre company.

Set in 2003, the play centres on the quest of Jane (Sarah Malin) to trace a plane that she believes is transporting US terror suspects to 'outsourced' torture destinations.

Calling on the help of a former flame, single father and plane geek Ray (Jacob Krichefski), she soon finds herself knee deep in a story that leads to the door of Mina (Manjeet Mann), whose absent husband she believes to be one of these suspects.

It's an intriguing, if slightly predictable, story, that seeks to combine the narrative drive of an investigative thriller with the heart of a domestic drama. But somehow it falls between two stools, never really raising the pulse with either its political plotline or its romantic subplot.

This said, there are some engrossing exchanges, such as the debate between Jane and Ray's daughter Ana over whether the internet marks the death of good journalism (it's a 'no comment' from this corner). And the inherent comedy of Mina's refusal to believe that her husband has been taken by the Americans because she'd rather believe he was having an affair is neatly played.

Elizabeth Freestone's atmospheric production is staged in a traverse arrangement, with the playing space bookended by an impressively rendered airport perimeter fence (credit to designer Naomi Dawson).

Of the performances the stand out is Malin, who emphasises Jane's go-it-alone feistiness but doesn't neglect her underlying heartache. There's also strong work from Dominique Bull, whose Ana will resonate with any young journalist struggling to get a foot in the door.

While I can't pretend this is the most riveting evening on offer in the capital right now, it's nevertheless interesting to track Bayley's progression from The Container (a hard-hitting immigration drama staged in a lorry container), to this more traditional four-hander, developed during her attachment at the prolific National Theatre Studio.

And the novelty of being invited to review a production in the Hampstead Downstairs will take some time to wear off.


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