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Flight

Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, Lucy Schaufer and Ellie Laugharne in Flight at Holland Park. Photo: Robert Workman Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, Lucy Schaufer and Ellie Laugharne in Flight at Holland Park. Photo: Robert Workman

Six years prior to Tom Hanks playing the stateless Viktor Navorski in Steven Spielberg’s The Terminal (2004), and long before Lucas and Walliams’ BBC comedy Come Fly With Me, Jonathan Dove came up with Flight – an opera in which an anonymous airport terminal is the backdrop for individual personal dramas. Commissioned by Glyndebourne, the piece has exported successfully to the USA, but this is its first professional London staging.

It’s a comic opera, but streaked with tragedy as we get to know the itinerant characters – three couples at different stages of their relationships and a lone woman waiting in vain for her toy boy to arrive. The two constants are the Controller, high in her tower (with stratospheric singing to match), and the Refugee (a counter-tenor), stuck in limbo without his papers.

The whole thing is painted in primary colours, helped not least by April de Angelis’ snappy libretto. Dove’s breezy style of minimalism proves a great vehicle too, punctuated by chimes that signal terminal announcements, and including a climactic set-piece that strikingly depicts a vast, suave, gleaming liner as it moves off.

Brad Cohen conducts with insight – almost too much, as he sometimes softens the music’s edge and internal detail. Stephen Barlow’s direction is crystal clear. Andrew Riley’s pristine terminal interior is aptly designed yet impersonal.

The cast is so unwaveringly brilliant it’s almost unfair to single out Jennifer France’s Controller, who cruises effortlessly at superhuman altitudes, Lucy Schaufer’s Older Woman, whose every word is keenly sculpted, and James Laing’s Refugee, sung with vibrancy and resilience. The nose may dip, dramatically, in the final act, but there’s no doubt this is a first-class ride.

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Verdict
Slick production with a galvanised ensemble cast – and uniformly excellent singing
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