Flare Path – Reviews Round-up

A round-up of reviews for Flare Path at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, London

Sheridan Smith in Flare Path
Sheridan Smith in Flare Path

This spring Trevor Nunn revives Terence Rattigan’s wartime romance Flare Path at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, timed to celebrate the centenary of the acclaimed playwright. An all-star cast leads this compelling new production, including Sienna Miller (The Edge of Love) as Patricia, James Purefoy (HBO’s Rome) as Peter, Sheridan Smith (Legally Blonde) as Doris, Joe Armstrong as Dusty, Sarah Crowden as Mrs Oakes and Clive Woods as Swanson.

Set near an airfield in Lincolnshire in 1942, the year the play was written and first performed, Rattigan’s drama involves love and heartache between an actress, a young bomber pilot and a famous movie heartthrob. The revival runs at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from 4 March 2011.

Read reviews, below, from the Times, Telegraph, Independent, Guardian and Daily Mail.


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Average Critics Rating


“ It is a triumph, and not only for Trevor Nunn (heaven knows he deserved a good war, after struggling with the dismal Birdsong).”
Sienna Miller is the actress wife planning to leave her puppyish, superficially larky airman... this marks her acceptance as a grown-up stage actress, expressing truthful feeling beyond the glamorous image.”
“She [Sheridan Smith] is wonderful as the barmaid married to a Polish airman: naive, cheerful, yet radiating immense doubt and pain in stillness. Like Hadden-Paton she has the hard task of portraying decent, ordinary, unclouded, youthful response: both are superb.”
“It is nearly three hours and, for all its complex emotion, the ending is not bleak but unexpectedly uproarious. A modern playwright would have stopped 15 minutes earlier, on a downbeat. But in terrible times, people do joke and sing. That’s where hope lies and, for all his mastery of pain, Rattigan always looked for it.”
Libby Purves, The Times
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“Sienna Miller may be the box-office draw, but Trevor Nunn's magnificent revival of Terence Rattigan's 1942 play is an ensemble achievement. And that seems appropriate for a play that is a tribute to the collective spirit of wartime bomber crews and their partners.”
“the occasional romanticism is counterbalanced by Rattigan's genius for barely expressed emotion. A simple exchange of goodbyes between a tail-gunner and his wife, as he leaves for a raid, brings a lump to the throat.”
“Nunn's production, using interpolated film of the flight take-off, beautifully captures both the sense of danger and its boozy, raucous aftermath. And the performances are impeccable.”
Michael Billington, The Guardian
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“Terence Rattigan’s Flare Path (1942), rarely ranked in the top drawer of his plays, emerges in Trevor Nunn’s superb production as a three-handkerchief weepie that somehow manages to be both profoundly moving and wonderfully funny.”
“As in so many of his greatest plays, Rattigan is writing here about what he perceived as the greatest flaw in the English character – our refusal to admit to our feelings. Yet what often make his work so touching in our own debased, confessional culture is the stoicism of his characters and their brave avoidance of emotional incontinence.”
“Nunn’s production beautifully captures both the Forties small talk and the deeper emotions that lie beneath it, while Stephen Brimson Lewis’s authentically dowdy hotel design is offset with thrilling projections and sound effects of the Wellingtons taking off.”
“Sienna Miller has grace and glamour as the actress at the apex of the love triangle, but needs to suggest deeper currents beneath her character’s reserve.”
“There isn’t a duff performance in the vividly drawn supporting roles and if Miller could turn up the dramatic heat a couple of notches, the production would be damn near perfect.”
Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph
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“.. her [Sienna Miller’s] performance as the conflicted actress-heroine of Flare Path is genuinely heart-tugging in the subtle way it communicates this young woman's struggle between patriotic duty and extra-marital desire”
“Trevor Nunn's richly entertaining and beautifully judged revival of this theatrical rarity. His production is a most valuable contribution to the current Terence Rattigan centenary celebrations.”
“Everything that could be contrasted in the lurid acrylics of melodrama in Flare Path is saved by moments where the chosen medium seems to be the smudged subtlety of drawing in coloured chalk. This is true not least of Miller's performance. There's a riotously funny, knees-up happy ending – an occasion into which, after the lonely pang of watching the Hollywood lover depart, Miller's Patricia allows herself to be absorbed by authentically life-like degrees. A terrific evening.”
Paul Taylor, The Independent
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“It’s a gloriously dusty old piece of propaganda that was fitted out by Rattigan to prove that the spirit of the Blitz could not only see off the dastardly Jerry, but also vanquish the shallow cult of celebrity.”
“You have to feel a bit sorry for Miller and Purefoy, because the leading roles are a little dull. But it’s hard to tell if the personality deficit lies in their parts, or their performances.”
“Sheridan Smith’s character — a corr-blimey Countess since marrying Mark Dexter’s comic book Polish airman — is a gorgeously funny confection of cheek and bashfulness. But my favourite was Sarah Crowden as the hotelier from hell. She is a marvellously gruff old Yorkshire trout who’s quick to give all-comers a good tongue bashing — not least the slick Hollywood legend.”
“Nunn’s production lays on impressive footage of the hefty old bombers taking off as if about to drop their deadly payload on a gawping audience.”
Patrick Marmion, Daily Mail
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📷 Main photo: A round-up of reviews for Flare Path at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, London

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