Sunday 04th December

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The Jack Studio Theatre: Flight

| Culture, Hidden London, Theatre, Venues | 20/01/2014

David Bromley and Michael Edwards each deep in conversation. Photograph by Jonathan Bradshaw.

Showing until February 1, 2014 // Ballast Theatre

It’s trademark setting-the-scene at the Jack as we part our way through dense smoke that actually smells smoky. A Rodchenko-style motif spills across the floor, the one constant element in this evening of clashing-coercing characters. The “dream-like quality of some of the passages” proves simultaneously startling and intoxicating, autumnal layers unpeeling like onion-skins, the dimly-lit stage remaining mostly dim. No dream but a nightmare fallow by shared truths of ‘humanity’ and serial metaphors of war. ‘Flight’ does, I imagine, accurately present the muddle and mess of conflict and its effect on communities and communal infrastructure. Howard Colyer as translator and adaptor together with director Scott le Crass succeed in sustaining its message.

A signatory interrogation incurs the awfulness of angry, violent men threatening physical abuse. It also provides David Bromley’s best role, scarily slimy. “Do you want a cigarette?” he enquires, casually skulking, squaring the eyes of his victim. Zigzags of despair defile pretty-boy Callum Cameron’s features from across the table. Sudden pathos patterns black humour in this Stalin-suppressed masterwork. The Constantinople marketplace offers a refreshing change-of-scene, its often witty dialogue enjoyed by an agreeable audience, effectively staged, including a nice bit of fisticuffs (courtesy Annie Lee Jones).

Howard Colyer recently told me that he dislikes intermissions and here’s the evidence. One does become lost in this world or collection of worlds and to intervene would rather break the spell. As the end rears we sense its approach, threads unravelling, lives unravelling. Surely this is a dream: sipping vin in Paris, playing cards on matched red velvet. Train wheels pull in to the jingle of a carnivalesque light brigade. The general, momentarily abandoned to his own mind, jabbers at his imaginary friend. Too absurd yet too familiar. The same, simple choice. Start or stop. At which the fortuitous foursome raise their glasses: “Back to life from the dream of exile!”

The stand-apart part is “the mad general with the ghost to talk to” Khludov; Michael Edwards and his spectral companion both ‘living’ up to the role/s. ‘One’ of a dozen great and versatile actors (alas too many to name) taking on multiple guise smoothly and diligently. Mark Moore, for example, perfectly balanced as a solid-yet-sensitive counterweight to his feminine counterparts. Nadia Shash emerges as a dexterous, flexible performer. Josephine Rogers lances with language, the misplaced socialite roughing it for dear life, and the stark poetry of the translation sings. Bulgakov knew how war reduces us, how it twists all relationships on all levels.

I have re-imagined a spurting gunshot pop of a Champagne cork following the interrogation though its ‘celebratory’ toast in scarlet serves sufficiently. Colyer and le Crass should crack open the cava in any case this production is a sure-fire WINNER.

Martin quotes from his recent What’s On interview with Howard Colyer, available here.

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