Flare Path

Terence Rattigan
Outdoor Theatre Company and Birdsong Productions Ltd
Grand Theatre, Blackpool

Flare Path at Blackpool Grand Credit: Jack Ladenburg
Daniel Fraser as Teddy Graham in Flare Path at Blackpool Grand

Written and first performed in the darkest days of World War Two, Terence Rattigan’s Flare Path was initially regarded as part of the war effort, a rallying call to marital fidelity on the home front.

With the war won, and new values emerging, it quickly became overlooked, along with much of Rattigan’s output, until a starry West End revival five years ago returned it to public attention.

Now this touring version reminds us yet again of the hidden depths and moral ambiguity to a play too easily dismissed as ‘old school’, with its two-act convention, and drawing room setting. The characters may still have a brittle, cut-glass delivery to Rattigan’s script—a style all-too-easily parodied nowadays—but the play still reflects effectively on conflicting values of class, duty, passion, courage and moral cowardice.

Old certainties and old proprieties are called into question when a dozen or so people come together in a hotel lounge, close by a wartime airbase.

The flare path, used to guide aircraft for taking off on their nightly bombing missions, becomes a metaphor for the guidelines on which society, or relationships, are organised. Step outside them and you may be flying into trouble.

The arrival of an old flame is just such a distraction for Patricia, played with measured elegance by Hedyyd Dylan. Determined to prise her from her husband, a valiant young air force officer, Lynden Edwards makes a suitably caddish Peter Kyle. But both men are wracked with inner doubts and Patricia’s dilemma becomes the emotional core of the play, even if the final influencing factor comes from an unexpected direction.

This is a competent and comfortable production, from The Original Theatre Company and Birdsong Productions, and one quite at home in Hayley Grindle’s red, bright and blue stage design.

Reviewer: David Upton