REVIEW: Flare Path

The cast. Pic by Rosey Purchase
The cast. Pic by Rosey Purchase

Stage Door Theatre Company at the Windmill, Littlehampton

The curtains opened on a handsome , realistic stage-set ( Mike Gearing & company ) representing the lobby of a hotel adjacent to a Second World War airfield . And this was the space in which Terence Rattigan showed us the lives , wives and loves of several brave fighter pilots in between their bombing sorties . The hotel was run by Mrs Oakes ( nice comic touches and timing from Maureen Ayres ) and an enthusiastic young waiter ( Howie Cobby).

Emma Millard did a nicely sustained job on “Countess Skriczevsky” , a daffy , ordinary girl who had acquired her title and Polish surname simply by being married to the Count , an airman with the Brits ( excellent “struggling-with-the-language” turn by Chris Nairne ) . Another couple involved a young Sergeant Miller ( Ben Sunderland ) and his characterful wife ( a pert and perky comic turn from Siobhana Healy ) .

But at the centre of a story which gave fair exposure to many characters was a love-triangle . Patricia Graham , a former actress ( Clare Cossins ) , was married to fighter pilot Lieutenant Graham (Simon Bain ) . This relationship – initially comfortable if not terribly deep – was placed under threat by the unexpected arrival of film-star Peter Kyle ( Paul Jones ) , who had come to try to reclaim his former – and now married – actress-lover .

Each of these performers presented a thought-through characterisation . Paul invested Peter Kyle more with the emotional neediness of an aging man than with seedy Hollwood glamour and Clare gave a convincing account of the residual sentimental attachment one might well feel for a former lover . And yet , in spite of a strong confrontational scene between them , the “chemistry” between these these two readings of character ( both well-acted individually ) didn’t always feel dangerously explosive enough to threaten a really conflicted choice between quiet ,English decency and the call of the wild , especially after Lieutetant Graham had opened up and confessed his inner fears to his sympathetic wife .

There were two other members of the force : a young Corporal Jones ( Gary Boniface) and Squadron Leader Swanson ( David Rosser in resonant voice ) . And credit must be due to director Micki Darbyshire and assistant director Elana Healy for taking a wordy and in some senses dated Rattigan play and making us engage so sympathetically with the lives of its various characters .

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