Scottish Opera and their production of “Flight” by Jonathan Dove and April De Angelis at The Festival Theatre Edinburgh this week unfortunately ran into more than a bit of bad weather turbulence and the opening show for Thursday 1st March plus the unwrapped performance on Friday 2nd had to be cancelled as the snow and bad weather blanketing Edinburgh and most of Scotland made it impossible for all performers to get to the venue.
With dogged determination that “the show must go on”, and a huge amount of work from everyone involved at Scottish Opera and The Festival Theatre, tonight’s show for Saturday has gone ahead, albeit without the luxury of an orchestra (players in many cases just cannot get to Edinburgh). The solution though is ingenious. Fortunately, the set was being built at the theatre before the worst of the weather front came in, and the principal cast were assembled too, so for this one off performance we have piano accompaniment only, and it works wonderfully.
“Flight” is an operatic comedy that was commissioned by Glyndebourne and premiered there in 1998. It is a mixture of classical opera and an almost Brian Rix theatrical farce, and the combined result is a very sharp and witty performance that highlights the enormous versatility of Scottish Opera’s performers.
Our story was inspired by the true-life story of an Iranian refugee who lived at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, for 18 years and here our story centres around a refugee living in the shadows of the airport controller, immigration officials and passengers as they pass through the airport.
Comedy to be done well needs a combination of rare writing and performance talents and Flight has both. Like all the very best comedy, there is a very dark side to many elements in Flight as we begin to explore the reasons why our main cast are at the airport, and although I list a few performances specifically, they are not over any one performance as everyone is on impressive form as our story opens up to reveal a combination of broken relationships, personal delusions, identity crises and fading passions. Our story takes an even darker twist as the reason for our refugee being at the airport is discovered. Flight has some wonderfully sharp lines in it and would easily stand up as a non operatic theatrical performance in its own right.
Making a very believable mid life crisis couple are Peter Auty (Bill) and Stephanie Corley (Tina) who have some wonderful scathing and acidic lines to one another. Marie McLaughlin (older woman) and Victoria Simmonds (Minskwoman) are both outstanding in their sensitive portrayal of women of a certain age facing completely different inner fears. James Laing (Refugee) and Jennifer France (Controller) also stand out in their respective roles. Very astute character performances from everyone here with of course impressive vocal performances to give life to their roles.
If there was one thing I could change about “Flight” it would however be the lift door scene with our steward and stewardess. Yes, it got plenty of laughs from many of the audience, but I think our imaginations were more than capable of dealing with a toned down scene as it did little to progress the story and for me broke up the magic of other people’s stories a little.
Flight also has a very good set that must give any stage technical crew more than a few headaches to put together as it is deceptively simple and very technically complex at the same time. The illusion of the storm outside the terminal and that first flight coming into view is impressive.
I have not seen Flight before and hearing a full orchestra perform the music would undoubtedly add more layers to the production, but this performance was something special and Scottish Opera need full credit for so swiftly adapting this performance to piano and making sure that the show did go on no matter what the weather conditions threw at them. Also a big thank you to all the staff at The Festival Theatre (front of house, technical and admin) for making what must have been a very difficult few days look so calm tonight.
A huge thanks too of course to Jonathon Swinard on piano for an incredible performance over the whole duration of our “Flight” and pretty much saving the day for everyone.
Scottish Opera credits for Flight include -
Refugee - James Laing
Controller= Jennifer France
Older Woman-Marie McLaughlin
Stewardess- Sioned Gwen Davies
Steward- Jonathan McGovern
Immigration Officer- Dingle Yandell
Director- Stephen Barlow
Set & Costume Designer- Andrew Riley
Lighting Designer -Richard Howell
Projection Designer- Jack Henry James
Review by Tom King