Flight | La MamaLeft – Geraint Hill. Photo – Peita Collard

This production is pointless, tedious, pretentious, and the direction is uninspired. Flight is a story that says nothing and features characters you don’t give a rat’s about. The actors (including the gorgeously named Geraint Hill in the lead role of Tilman) do a brave but torturous job of a wordy, tendentious, expository work, but they couldn’t save it or themselves. The performances overall are fine. Claire Callow is especially convincing.

Narrative arc – check. Dramatic tension – nothing doing. We knew exactly how it would end. Characterisation is akin to a stack of flat-packed Ikea storage items. The really flat ones. The redeeming feature of this play is that there is some narrative momentum – there is a story, however predictable, it knows where it is going (as does the audience) and the writer is in control of his material. That’s it.

Playwright Michael Healy has a story-teller in there somewhere, if only he could access his imagination. He needs to understand that audiences don’t need to be told things – the joy in theatre is in working it out for oneself. Golden rule number one: Show, don’t tell. Golden rule number two: ‘I hope he will, I fear he won’t.’ This play makes all the rookie mistakes of having its characters deliver essays on what’s going on in their lives and what they think about it rather than letting us see them in action. No mystery. The hospital scene is superfluous. The playwright also seems desperate to let us know how familiar he is with Germany. But not the really interesting things about Germany, not the tensions between the ‘East’ and west, not the xenophobia, not the ambivalence in the national psyche towards twentieth century history or attitude towards the subculture of immigrant workers, all of which could have been woven (with subtlety) into the background. And let’s look at the real politics here: the women are just hopeless – a long suffering wife, a long suffering best friend who’s in love with Tilman and a stalker! No-one seems to mind Tilman’s regular adultery; they still all think he’s wonderful. A protagonist who simply walks out on his loved ones – are we supposed to admire that? We don’t necessarily need a worthy protagonist but we need an interesting one.

Flight could also have been improved with a stronger director who understood something about theatricality, about tableaux, about pacing, about rhythm. But each scene has the actors standing or sitting and talking to each other in static poses with nothing else to do. This team would do well to catch a show like The Economist or The Story of Mary MacLane and learn to explore what is available in terms of stage craft and storytelling, see how to build a world economically, one where language is employed for reasons other than exposition.

But to be fair, I have seen much worse.

La Mama Theatre in association with Eagles Nest Theatre and Nicole Peters present
by Michael Healy

Directed by Skye Staude

Venue: La Mama Courthouse
Dates: November 30 – December 18, 2011
Times: Wed,Sun 6:30/ Thu, Fri,Sat, 8pm
Tickets: $25 – $15
Bookings: lamama.com.au | (03) 9347 6142

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