Tears for Terence Rattigan's Flare Path
James Purefoy as Peter and Sienna Miller as Patricia in Flare Path by Terence Rattigan at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian
It seems heartless to even think about theatre with the news flashing images of unimaginable destruction in Japan. Just as cinemas stayed open in Britain during World War II and just as we all make the best of our lives - their tragedies and joys - so British theatre continues to stage wonderful plays, and we need them now.
If you have tears, prepare to shed them now. Terence Rattigan’s Flare Path (1942), rarely ranked in the top drawer of his plays, emerges in Trevor Nunn’s superb production as a three-handkerchief weepie that somehow manages to be both profoundly moving and wonderfully funny.
. . .it was written in the darkest days of the Second World War, and based on Rattigan’s own experience as a rear-gunner flying dangerous missions in RAF bombers, I think his decision to end the play on a note of happiness and relief is justified. For in the drama’s celebratory closing moments, we know that there will be many other dangerous missions ahead for characters we have come to care about deeply – and the survival rate of those who flew with Bomber Command was less than 50 per cent. . .