Flare Path

Flare Path by Terence Rattigan
Production Date: 23 - 25 November
Directed by: Hazel Hughes

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Flare Path Cast
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Photography by Andrew McKerlie: www.mckerlie.co.uk

Review: Flare Path / The Wychwood Players  

Author: Alastair Tweedie  

The Wychwood Players’ deft and professional production of Terence Rattigan’s Flare Path in Shipton under-Wychwood’s New Beaconsfield Hall (24 November) confounded expectations of what one  might expect from a local theatre company.  

From the moment the curtains opened, one was enveloped in director Hazel Hughes’s claustrophobic  evocation of wartime Britain inhabited by Rattigan’s cast of memorable and clearly-sketched  characters, each of whom was note-perfect in their role.  

The numerous moments of comedy in Flare Path were well-timed and skilfully delivered, yet done  without detracting from the play’s background of pathos, fear and uncertainty.  

The play’s central love-triangle comprised the lugubrious, fading Hollywood star Peter Kyle  (convincingly played by a very charismatic Aram Gregory), actress Mrs Patricia Warren (Vanessa  Hartley, simultaneously vampish but naïve) and her husband, the blustering, self-doubting Flight  Lieutenant ‘Teddy’ Graham (memorably played Andy Belchambers in his first on-stage performance),  with the romantic comings-and-goings contrasting with the daily life-and-death antics of the RAF  crews.  

The machinations and deceptions of the love-triangle’s protagonists were thwarted and interrupted  by the paper-thin façade of Countess Skriczevinsky (Joanna McKerlie, as movingly excellent as ever),  Fawlty-esque hotelier Mrs Oakes (outstanding first-timer Vikki Days) and lazy barman Percy (John  McCormick, with loud-mouthed, rogue-ish charm).  

The main Flare Path characters were ably supported by Sergeant ‘Dusty’ Miller (William Gofton, with  a confidence that belies his youth), his sharp-tongued wife Maudie (Alice Spiers, with great comic  timing), Squadron Leader ‘Gloria’ Swanson (a wonderfully buffer-ish Phillip Croxson), language mangling Count Skriczevinsky (perfectly portrayed by Ralph Wears) and saloon-bar regular Corporal  ‘Wiggy’ Jones (assistant director Simon Johnson).  

The Wychwood Players’ sound and lighting team (Anthony Gofton & Tony Mellerick) perfectly  captured the cosy, devil-may-care atmosphere of the local hotel in which the cast of Flare Path is  billeted (familiar to the audience from numerous WWII films), yet with the tension and danger of the  war always apparent, manifested in the take-offs and landings from the nearby RAF airfield, all  achieved with innovation and impact.  

The production’s 1940s wartime atmosphere extended to the excellent staging, costumes and props  (Simon Johnson, Bob Days, Amanda Rowley, Ally Green & Ollie Ball). 

Congratulations to the Wychwood Players’ director, cast and crew on a sold-out production that  conjured a complex mixture of comedy, wistfulness, bravery, loss and redemption, with the closing  moments highlighting the intended ambiguity of Rattigan’s original script.

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