A powerful Flight of fancy
Seen at Theatre Royal, Glasgow;
at Festival Theatre, Edinburgh,
Reviewed by Mark Brown
The airport, as we saw in the National Theatre of Scotland/Grid Iron show Roam back in 2006, is not merely a functional location. Its comings and goings contain within them all manner of hopes and fears. Sometimes what goes on there is, literally, a matter of life and death.
Some eight years before Roam took its audiences around Edinburgh International Airport, the 1998 opera Flight, by Jonathan Dove (music) and April De Angelis (libretto), was addressing similar themes. Now, based upon the Investec Opera Holland Park production from 2015, the piece is now receiving its Scottish Opera premiere.
Rolling together the departure lounge and the arrivals hall, the opera brings together the kind of assortment of people you would be unlikely to find anywhere other than an airport.
There’s the middle-aged couple desperately trying to reignite the fire in their relationship. Their manufactured optimism contrasts humorously with the shenanigans of the airline steward and stewardess, for whom an airport elevator proves private enough for some sexual gymnastics.
Add to this the understandable crisis of confidence of the pregnant wife of a diplomat (is it motherhood or Minsk that is terrifying her?), the apprehension of a 52-year-old double divorcee waiting for her young lover and the plight of a refugee, who is stuck in the airport as if in limbo.
Played on Andrew Riley’s set, a precise evocation of its location which hosts Jack Henry James’s ambitious video work excellently, director Stephen Barlow’s production shifts effectively between comedy and tragedy. The impressively grand score, with its appropriately soaring crescendos and moments of spiky discordance, is matched by fine singing across the board (Jennifer France is especially affecting as the plaintive, almost ethereal Controller).
Ultimately, the figure of an implausibly humane immigration officer enables a powerful conclusion which puts the global refugee crisis centre stage.
This review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on February 25, 2018
© Mark Brown