Theatre Royal, Haymarket
Of all the fearful things brave people did in World War II, few were more perilous than being part of a bomber crew. A quiet sense of terror underwrites Flare Path, which is set in a small hotel where flight crews and their loved ones meet to relax between sorties. Terrence Rattigan, who served as a tail gunner himself, wrote the play in 1942.
Sienna Miller is appealing, but not quite captivating, as Patricia, an actress caught in a love triangle with her flight lieutenant husband Teddy and her old flame, Peter (James Purefoy, excellent), a Hollywood star whose career is on the wane, but who she still loves. As the airmen are called out for a last-minute mission, Patricia must choose between the two men who each say they depend on her.
Miller and Purefoy may be the headline names, but it’s those around them who really shine. As the worn-out Teddy, Harry Hadden-Paton gives a heartbreakign performance, while Sheridan Smith is quite magnificent as a barmaid married to an aristocratic Polish airman – she, rather than Patricia, ends up giving the play its heart and soul.
Trevor Nunn has created an elegant, atmospheric show, at times unbearably tense and fantastically moving as Rattigan quietly reveals the emotions beneath those stiff upper lips. Timothy Barber
CHALET Girl is rather more fun than it has any real right to be. A romantic comedy built around old-fashioned British class themes – working-class girl falls for dashing, rich posh-boy – it hardly has an original bone in its body, other than its setting (the Alps) and its snowboarding subplot, (which is at least original territory for a British comedy). Pretty rising star Felicity Jones plays Kim, who works in a fast food outlet and lives with her unemployed, widowed dad (Bill Bailey). Needing a change of scene, she manages to get a job as a chalet girl in the Chelsea-in-the-Alps world of St Anton, working for Bill Nighy (on typically sardonic form) and his family. That includes Gossip Girl’s Ed Westwick as Nighy’s dreamboat son.
Will Kim get the boy? Will her past as a skateboarding whiz come in useful in the local snowboarding competition? There are, of course, absolutely no surprises here, but there are some very good lines from an entertaining cast, and things whip along with the pace of a downhill skier. TB