Theatre Review: Flare Path

Sienna Miller and James Purefoy may be the big name attractions in Trevor Nunn’s production of World War II love story FLARE PATH – but Sheridan Smith emerges as the true star of the show.

SOMEWHERE between drama and comedy, Flare Path succeeds in tugging our heartstrings and making us smile before our tears can dry.

The play is set in 1942 at a hotel on the edge of an airfield in Lincolnshire, where Teddy (Harry Hadden-Paton), a young bomber pilot is celebrating a reunion with his actress wife Patricia (Sienna Miller). Events take an unexpected turn when Peter (James Purefoy), a heart-throb film star and Patricia’s former partner, arrives and an urgent bombing mission over Germany is ordered. Patricia finds herself at the heart of a passionate conflict of love.

Big expectations surround a play directed by Trevor Nunn, whose CV includes Cats and Les Miserables, and his direction is indeed competent. The play is divided into four parts with breaks to create suspense, but a touch of boredom ensues in the first section as the love-triangle comes to light very slowly.

Casting Sienna Miller and James Purefoy for this secret romance roused further anticipation, but their place in the plot is somewhat leaden compared to the supporting acts. The reunion kiss shared between Patricia and Peter is neither discreet nor convincing and their interaction is stiff and uncomfortable, Patricia’s husband Teddy seems the favourite to win out between two lust-less relationships.


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By contrast, the love story between Sheridan Smith’s character Doris and Mark Dexter’s character Count Skriczevinsky lights up the stage. Smith can make the audience laugh out loud with her loopy portrayal of a war-time woman drinking with the lads - and she can take us right down as her outspoken character falls softly silent after receiving terrible news. Dexter too is superb as a poorly spoken Polish pilot.

If love and marriage can revive the tumult of wartime Britain, Flare Path does so nicely. Not too dramatic, not too silly.

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* Showing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in Haymarket, SW1, until Saturday, June 4.

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