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Flare Path delivers poignant look at life in shadow of war

By Chrissy Steinbock on November 4, 2015

Now playing at the Ottawa Little Theatre, Terrence Rattigan’s Flare Path is a moving drama that pulls you in with an impressively human portrayal of war. Klaas Van Weringh directs this poignant production with heart, humour, and a few surprises. Rattigan’s understated script, inspired by his experiences as an RCAF air gunner sidesteps big battle scenes and propaganda to capture the atmosphere of being at war – the constant looming danger, the anxious waiting, the sense of life on hold and the whirlwind romances that flourished amidst all this.  As one of the air force wives says “there’s a war on, and things have got to be a bit different, and we’ve just got to get used to it – that’s all.”

Flare PathFlare Path takes us to the Falcon Hotel on the edge of an airfield in 1942 England. Teddy, an RAF bomber pilot is looking forward to a short break with his glamorous wife Patricia, an actress. Teddy’s joined by everyman air gunner Dusty and Johnny, a Polish Count bent on revenge who are also looking forward to reuniting with their wives for a bit of normalcy. Things don’t go quite as planned when Hollywood film star Peter Kyle shows up out of nowhere and the boys are unexpectedly called out for a risky overnight mission.

Overall, the cast does a great job of playing up the emotional aspects of the story. As handsome Flight lieutenant Teddy Graham, Jesse Lalonde is ever chipper though he’s just as convincing when he lets down the brave face in one particularly touching scene. Playing his wife Patricia, Laura Hall has an elegant grace though the chemistry with both her husband and her flame could be stronger. As aging actor Peter Kyle, Sterling Lynch mostly holds a line of suave restraint which takes something away from the romantic yearning he should have for Patricia though it does add some punch to his breakdown late in the story.

Andrew Johnson is a lovable Polish Count Skriczevinksy (“Johnny”) played with lots of physicality and lots of amusing broken English. Zoe Tupling brings spunk and emotive power to her role as Doris, Johnny’s wife, a feisty former barmaid and accidental Countess.  Playing sergeant Dusty Miller and his wife Maudie, Allan Ross and Lindsey Hawley are the picture of everyday people swept up in the times, he trying to stay brave though overwhelmed and she grumpy in the face of constant fear for her husband.

Even the smaller roles are well done.  Playing Squadron leader Swanson, Sam Hanson brings a warmth and understanding to the role and as hotel owner Mrs. Oakes, Janet Rice is tough as nails, all stiff upper lip and stubbornness. The production’s biggest drawback is that the dialogue doesn’t always come across. This could be due to a combination of unfamiliar accents, slang and diction that could be crisper. Paul Gardner’s set design effectively captures the period style as do Peggy Laverty’s costumes with realistic Air Force uniforms and vintage ’40 dresses. Sound designer Andrew Hamlin adds to the production’s authentic feel with a convincing airfield soundscape and well-chosen war-era tunes between scenes.

Flare Path is a touching production that goes beyond a historical portrait with the look and language of the time to capture the experience of living at war as seen from the eyes of airmen and their wives. View the trailer below:


Flare Path runs at the Ottawa Little Theatre until November 14, 2015. Tickets range from $12 – $25 and can be purchased online or by calling the box office (613-233-8948).