Theatre Review: Flights

The tale of three thirty-something Irish pals reuniting to remember their deceased friend arrives at Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre.

If unable to read up on John O’Donovan’s new play Flights, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled into the remnants of a squatters rave as you enter the Omnibus’ auditorium. A rocking chair, table adorned with candles, and a couch/bed occupy the space that any crushed beer cans do not. However, there is no party – not really. There’s meant to be, but what Flights culminates in is a realisation of the complications surrounding bereavement, friendship and a longing for what once was, but no longer can be.

Something of a celebratory atmosphere is evidently attempted as the three men reunite to remember the passing of their friend more than a decade previous. Zippy dialogue demonstrates the love each of the characters had for their departed companion and the desire for fond remembrance, with quick-fire, anecdotal rounds aiming to show each other how much there still is to remember. However, the heavy drug misuse and presence of five crates of beer just off-stage add an unconscious depth to the plot – are these three equal protagonists truly here to celebrate a life, or use the so-called ‘tradition’ as an opportunity to remove themselves from their own, however temporarily. Cusack (Conor Madden) and Barry (Colin Campbell), initially appear to have no reason to escape reality with their developing career paths, strong relationships and new families. However, relationships can be ended by a single revelation, and life at home isn’t always as sweet as it appears. Pa (Rhys Dunlop) is on the other end of the spectrum having recently been made homeless, and although it isn’t noted on at the end, it’s hoped by the audience he’ll cut out the MDMA, speed, alcohol and cigarettes following a revelation, and avoid being the second of the clan death comes for.

The dialogue and performances are both believable and strong throughout, although the soliloquies are what linger in the minds of audiences. Each character has a moment to shine as they transform into Liam, addressing the audience to share the deceased teen’s version of events. The soliloquies are undeniably meaty, and with the excessive dimming of lights it is easy to drift away slightly. However, although eyes may wander around the set and audience during the slower sections of solo performance, all is taken in. It can feel like you’re tuning into a podcast, looking away to make your own judgements, before Liam takes you to the club, where girls are stumbling, lads are dancing ferociously and class A drugs are shooting through his bloodstream. Rhys Dunlop’s closing soliloquy is notably poignant, providing a sense of what could have been if life wasn’t so fragile.

There are a few loose ends as the performance comes to a close. However, the desire to desperately know more about the characters is primarily a result of how much audiences become invested in the performances, with their believability supported by O’Donovan’s playwriting.

Ultimately, Flights is a piece of theatre that will be subject to post-performance discussion for a while, and one that’ll encourage you to hold loved ones just a little bit tighter.


On until 29 Feb.


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