Arts Review: Flight

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Dir. Stephen Barlow, Theatre Royal Glasgow, 21-24 February

Scottish Opera’s performance of Flight tells the story of a refugee trapped in the departure lounge of an international airport, having smuggled onto a plane in the hopes of starting a new life in his destination. Without papers, however, he runs the risk of being detained and then deported by immigration services. The production is inspired by the real life story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian man who lived for almost 18 years in Charles de Gaulle airport.

Despite this somewhat dark backdrop, Flight still manages to be raucous and a good laugh. Keeping the refugee company in the lounge are a bickering married couple, a cougar awaiting the arrival of her boy toy fiancé, a diplomat’s wife and a lustful steward and stewardess, who supply most of the visual gags. Above them resides the Controller, an aloof figure who sneers on them all excepting only the refugee. Stranded in the airport overnight due to an electric storm, antics ensue. Moments of quiet sorrow from the refugee are interspersed with dirty jokes and ridiculousness, yet the transitions are not jarring or disconcerting.

Opera has also been about melodrama, and quite often about sex, but I don’t know if it’s ever been displayed so explicitly or so entertainingly. This is an unusual opera, which breaks free of many of the trappings of the craft, while still managing to excel in vocal talent. James Laing’s Refugee has a beautifully soft tone which captures the sorrow of a man with his life on hold, while Jennifer France as the Controller delivers a breath-taking performance.  With such an absurd real life story from which the opera emerged, it’s hardly surprising that the opera itself is more than a little insane.

Flight, as a comedy sung in English with a contemporary setting, showcases the ability of opera to tell modern day stories. By far the most enjoyable plane journey I’ve ever experienced.


[Louise Wylie – @womanpendulum

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