FLIGHT – Edinburgh International Festival ★★★★★

In Edinburgh Festival, Festivals, International, Plays, Regional theatre, Reviews, Scotland by Thom DibdinLeave a Comment

★★★★★
Church Hill Theatre, Edinburgh – until 27 August 2017
Guest reviewer: Dylan Taylor

Vox Motus’ Flight is an emotional and powerful work of art – an experience like no other that stays with you long after leaving Edinburgh’s Church Hill Theatre.

Based on the novel Hinterland by Caroline Brothers, Flight tells the story of Kabir (Nalini Chetty) and Aryan (Farshid Rokey), two young refugees who must journey across Europe after being forced to flee the Taliban in their home country of Afghanistan. Their goal is England, where they hope to join the nephew of the tailor from their village.

What makes this such a unique piece of theatre is that there is no theatre at all. The action, which lasts approximately 45 minutes, takes place directly in front of you, through the use of an innovative piece of storytelling technology.

The audience members take individual, self-enclosed seats in front of a wall installation that continues to revolve throughout the entire performance, revealing panels that light up as the story progresses. There are no physical actors; only voice and music are used, and the story is told using small character models, arranged, with the corresponding scenery, within the hollow panels of the installation.

By focusing on the perspectives of the two young brothers, the narrative avoids becoming political. This is a story of personal struggle and the relationship between Kabir and Aryan. Oliver Emanuel’s stage adaptation handles this material with tremendous skill and brings out the emotions without being too heavy-handed. Part of the story’s power is in its ability to focus, like a film, on dialogue, while letting the visuals provide the context.

Jamie Harrison and Candice Edmunds’ direction is meticulous. At no point does the story become dull or lose momentum. The experimental medium is profoundly immersive, and seems almost to recreate the feeling of being read a picture book as a child. The ability to move one’s head to examine Kabir and Aryan as they fight the elements, sit at a dinner table, or stand silhouetted against the Turkish landscape, gives the medium a video game-like element, which ups the artistry on display and heightens the emotional investment. Flight clearly demonstrates the potential of this unique form of storytelling, and one would hope to see the use of this technology in future works.

Rebecca Hamilton acts as co-designer with Harrison, and as lead model maker has given the play an evocative and engaging aesthetic. Fitting into the overall theme of flight, the use of squawking birds to represent the French police officers is a great artistic touch, effectively expressing the feeling of being submerged in a foreign culture with the inability to communicate.
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Mark Melville’s compositions and sound design are perfectly suited to the story elements, and are a crucial part of what brings the story so fully to life. Simon Wilkinson’s lighting design here plays an essential role in keeping the story moving.

There is only a very minor weakness here: Chetty and Rokey’s voice acting in rare moments sounds somewhat forced and over-acted, walking a thin line between expressiveness and melodrama. The fable-like quality of the story, however, makes this perhaps somewhat inevitable, and the sheer emotional power of the play shrinks this quibble to near insignificance.

Through its expressionistic and symbolic form, Flight manages to show, perhaps more successfully than would a less original medium, the human ramifications of the refugee crisis. By keeping its hands out of politics and firmly in the realm of the individual lives affected, it becomes an important, beautiful, and heartfelt work that just might change the way some people view this topical issue.

Running time: 45 minutes (no interval)
Part of the Edinburgh International Festival
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Friday 4 – Sunday 27 August 2017
Eight times daily (not 8, 12/13, 16, 22): 2pm, 2.45pm, 3.30pm, 4.15pm, 6.30pm, 7.15pm, 8pm, 8.45pm.
Tickets from EIF website: https://www.eif.co.uk/2017/flight

EIF Twitter: @edintfest
EIF Facebook: @EdintFest

ENDS

 

Thom Dibdin
Thom Dibdin has been reviewing and writing about theatre in Scotland since the last millennium. He is currently Scotland Correspondent for The Stage newspaper. In 2010, he founded AllEdinburghTheatre.com. The city's only dedicated theatre website, it covers all Edinburgh theatre year-round - and all theatre made in Edinburgh during EdFringe. Thom is passionate about quality in theatre criticism and is a member of the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. In addition to his personal account, he tweets @AllEdinTheatre.
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Thom Dibdin
Thom Dibdin has been reviewing and writing about theatre in Scotland since the last millennium. He is currently Scotland Correspondent for The Stage newspaper. In 2010, he founded AllEdinburghTheatre.com. The city's only dedicated theatre website, it covers all Edinburgh theatre year-round - and all theatre made in Edinburgh during EdFringe. Thom is passionate about quality in theatre criticism and is a member of the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. In addition to his personal account, he tweets @AllEdinTheatre.