The story of a love triangle set against the backdrop of war was played out on the stage of Worthing’s Connaught Theatre last week.
A play about the Second World War, written during the Second World War and, unusually, performed during the Second World War, Flare Path is based in part on writer Terence Rattigan’s own wartime experiences.
The plot focuses on fading Hollywood star Peter Kyle (Lynden Edwards), his former lover Patricia Warren (Hedydd Dylan) and her pilot husband Flight Lieutenant Teddy Graham (Daniel Fraser).
Kyle has tracked her down at The Falcon Hotel in Lincolnshire, hoping to win her back. And she is ready to leave her husband and run away – until a brush with tragedy and a heartfelt, brave admission makes her consider her options.
Who needs her more – the actor working on his last picture, or the hero pilot understandably struggling to keep things together after yet another mission across the channel?
And the sub-plot of Countess Doris Skriczevinsky (Claire Andreadis), waiting – desperately, patiently, hopefully – for her husband, Flying Officer Count Skriczevinsky (William Reay), to return against all odds added depth to the story and another glimpse at the effects of war on the loved ones left behind.
Daniel Fraser deserves special credit for a superb performance as the hero pilot struggling with the immense pressure.
Graham Seed and Charlie G Hawkins supported well as Squadron Leader Swanson and butler Percy respectively, as did Audrey Palmer as hotellier Mrs Oakes and Jamie Hogarth as Sergeant Dusty Miller.
For all the horrors, sadness and worry the war brings, things do, for most of the characters, turn out okay in the end, though with perhaps a little too much sentimentality.
But look at it another way – in the context of when the play was written, when support for the war effort was sought after and the Ministry of Information controlled news and information.
Then, perhaps that sentimentality is not sentimentality at all, but positivity and the offering of hope in a deeply dark period in our history.
And that has endured. The play remains a thought-provoking, ultimately feel-good tale of right prevailing over wrong and of endings being happy ones.
Maybe that was what Rattigan felt was needed in the early 1940s, and Flare Path still feels fresh so many decades later. Similarly, its themes of love, hope and loss have not dated, either.
As if that wasn’t enough, a further highlight came after show, when Hedydd Dylan and Daniel Fraser held a Q&A session with audience members in Fraser’s Bar at the Connaught.
It added an extra dimension and an insight into the actors’ feelings about the show, and was all the more memorable thanks to the coincidence of Daniel Fraser being the grandson of Bill Fraser, the first acting manager of the Connaught Theatre and for whom the bar is named.
A really interesting, enlightening addition – more of these, please, Worthing Theatres.