Flare Path revolves around the troubles of three military families stationed at an RAF bomber base during WWII. While there is always the shared fear that their husbands may one day be shot down, each of these families has their own unique marriage problems to worry about.
From infidelity of the heart to fears of the future, these troubles are kept secret by the wives from the husbands who fly over enemy territory at night. At the best of times, life still manages to impersonate contentment, but calm veneers begin to crack when the latest bombing run fails to go as planned.
The conflict between desire and duty plays a major role in this narrative. However, for a story based upon such inner turmoil, the drama of this performance feels rather subdued.
The first act of Flare Path is noticeably drawn out. There is very little action and events seem almost too staggered, with several moments of null action. This meandering defuses some of the dramatic tensions of the first act. making it harder to engage with, but there is an improvement during the more eventful second act.
It’s also hard to get past Sterling Lynch’s unconvincing portrayal of Peter Kyle, an actor whose repertoire is comprised of romantic films and a deep familiarity with one of the three war wives, Patricia Graham as played by Laura hall. Kyle arrives onstage with the intention of disrupting a marriage, and yet his voicing of the role seems detached from the emotions that are supposed to be behind his words and actions. Being a major figure in some of the more emotionally intimate scenes of this production, this is problematic, as it tends to distance the audience from these emotions as well.
This is balanced out, somewhat, by the more in-touch performances of Hall, Jesse Lalonde as Hall’s husband Lieutenant Graham, and Zoë Tupling as Countess Skriczevinsky. These actors manage to tap into the narrative and reveal some of the emotion at work beneath the surface of things.
What nearly all of the leads had trouble with, with the exception of perhaps Hall, Lalonde, and Allan Ross playing Sergeant Miller, was the use of accents. While the intention seemed to be to generate a very British sounding atmosphere, a number of accents were either inconsistent or inexplicably nonexistent.
Surprisingly enough, it was actually a couple members of the supporting cast that gave some of the most immersive performances of the evening. Jeff Clement, in the role of Percy the young waiter, and Janet Rice, as the stern innkeeper Mrs. Oakes, took to their roles in such a way that they seemed to have been plucked from the set of a BBC war drama.
In the end, Flare Path doesn’t offer anything too surprising in terms of plot. While addressing topics like PTSD might have been alarming when the show was first performed in 1942, it is now a familiar element to the wartime narrative.
While it isn’t what you would call blatant political propaganda, it doesn’t choose to test its boundaries too forcefully either. While characters are willing to admit that life during the war isn’t ideal, it is only to build to the conclusion that it is still a part of every citizen’s duty to ignore their own desires for a time (even if that means remaining in a marriage you don’t believe in) for the sake of the greater good.
While a fitting play to run over Remembrance Day, Flare Path comes off as an old story that requires a strong retelling to come off as fresh and engaging, a feat which it hasn’t quite achieved in its first performances.