Flare Path at the OLT: More Fizzle Than Flare

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Categories: Community Theatre

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Photo:  Maria Vartanova

War dwarfs personal relationships. Set against the sense of duty to country, an extra-marital affair seems “tiny and rather cheap,” says the woman at the centre of the love triangle in Terrence Rattigan’s Flare Path. This is particularly so when her husband is a serving RAF officer, risking his life on every bombing mission, and her lover is an aging matinee idol.

Rattigan wrote the 1942 drama while he was an air gunner, flying Coastal Command during the Second World War. Thus, stiff-upper-lip dialogue that makes light of the constant danger, through jolly, matter-of-fact conversations and silly nicknames for the flyers rings true. So does the sense of dread hanging over the women who are left behind. One drinks and pretends not to worry. A second is irritable and withdrawn. The third struggles with her moral dilemma between passion and duty, trying to decide whether her husband or her lover has the greater need of her.

The emotional restraint of most of the characters in Flare Path, reflected in the understatements in the text, can and should heighten the emotional connection and anguish with the threat of death always at hand.

Sadly, the insipid Ottawa Little Theatre production does not do this. Instead, as directed by Klaas van Weringh, the emotion is so suppressed that the result is frequently awkwardness as two characters preserve their distance from each other and keep their voices level. The latter may be partly an attempt to maintain the appropriate accents, but much of the time it seems to be at the director’s behest.

Two performances deliver on total believability. Janet Rice delivers an excellent cameo of Mrs.Oakes, the hotel owner. She walks the talk in every way and is equally convincing in her pragmatic continuation of her duties and her annoyance at being given an order below her station. Sam Hanson also relaxes into a clear and convincing portrait of Squadron Leader Swanson.

As ex-barmaid and current countess, married to a Polish officer, Zoë Tupling brings some warmth to her characterization and Jesse Lalonde manages the cheery aspects of his characterization of Flight Lieutenant Graham quite effectively. In general, cast members approach their roles with understanding, but rarely make the transition into giving the impression that they are feeling what they are saying.

A major problem is the lack of obvious chemistry between the matinee idol, Peter Kyle (a very restrained Sterling Lynch) and Patricia Graham (an elegant but very buttoned down rendering from Laura Hall).

Although the period is well presented through Paul Gardner’s set, Dorothy Gardner’s set dressing, Peggy Laverty’s costumes and Kat Kowalik’s hairstyles, no rockets explode in this production of Flare Path.

The Ottawa Little Theatre production of Flare Path continues to November 14.

By Terrence Rattigan

Ottawa Little Theatre

Director: Klaas van Weringh

Set: Paul Gardner

Sound: Andrew Hamlin

Lighting: John Solman

Costumes: Peggy Flaherty

Cast:

Countess Skriczevinsky (Doris)………………………….Zoë Tupling

Perter Kyle………………………………………………..Sterling Lynch

Mrs. Oakes……………………………………………….Janet Rice

Sergeant Miller (Dusty)………………………………….Allan Ross

Percy……………………………………………………..Jeff Clement

Count Skriczevinsky (Johnny)…………………………..Andrew Johnson

Flight-Lieutenant Graham (Teddy)………………………Jesse Lalonde

Patricia Graham………………………………………….Laura Hall

Mrs. Miller (Maudie)…………………………………….Lindsey Hawley

Squadron-Leader Swanson (Gloria)……………………..Sam Hanson

Corporal “Wiggy” Jones & BBC announcer…………….David L. McCallum


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