Sunday, 24 April 2011

Flare Path by Terence Rattigan

Gosh, it's more than a month since I last posted.  I have been SO busy at work. And flat out exhausted when I got home.  Then we had a week in Somerset in a holiday cottage, no internet access.  However, it was not all hard work, on 9th April I met my old friend in London and we went to the Saturday matinee at the Haymarket Theatre. 

This year is the centenary of Rattigan's birth.  It's odd, how some people have a centenary absolutely plugged to the limit, and others pass almost unnoticed (here I am thinking of Elizabeth Gaskell, born 1810, whose 200 year milestone was unmarked last year, as far as I could see).

Anyway, Rattigan was a playwright, not a novelist, so it is down to theatre owners, producers and directors rather than the BBC, to mark the occasion, and mark it they have, big time.  Trevor Nunn, a very famous and distinguished director, mounted this production, which stars the famous-for-being-phone-tapped Sienna Miller.  She was good, actually. Better than I expected, for a movie actress acting on stage in a large old theatre without mikes.

My friend, Sheran, is exactly a year younger than me, to a week, and we met at York in 1974, when we were both studying English there, and shared a flat for one memorable year.  We still share our love of books and literature.

We both agreed that this was a beautifully written old-fashioned drama, replete with emotion, completely transparent in that there was no subtext, no obscure symbolism nor Pinter-esque subterfuge, silences or any nasty business.  It was heroic and poignant and ended happily.  We absolutely loved it.

At the end of the first act, the auditorium is deafened by the sound of  bombers taking off overhead, with a shadow picture of them projected above the stage.  This brought tears to our eyes.  We didn't actually live through World War II, but our fifties childhoods were absolutely saturated with it.  I was born in May 1953, she in May 1954.  Total baby-boomers, both of us, spoilt blue-eyed daughters of returning servicemen, we grew up surrounded by little boys playing soldiers, and listening to our elders recalling the bombs, the ration-books, the fear and uncertainty from day to day.  No-one knew how it would end.  Victory from our view today looks inevitable, but as they lived through it, our parents had no idea what was going to happen.

We grew up listening to air force slang, and didn't realise that it was slang, thinking that was how our fathers and uncles talked, and it was plain English.

Electrifying, this production recalled it all.