Flight review at Church Hill Theatre, Edinburgh – ‘deeply important and innovative’
Glaswegian company Vox Motus use miniature models on a revolving diorama to stage Flight, an adaptation of Caroline Brothers’ novel Hinterland. It follows two orphaned Afghan brothers, Aryan and Kabir, on a harrowing journey across Europe to reach London. Each audience member is led individually to a dark booth and given headphones through which to hear Emun Elliott’s sensitive narration, snatches of dialogue and sound effects.
Familiar sounds take on a newly terrifying quality here – the slam of a lorry door, the squawks of seagulls on the coast. To Kabir, birds become both dreamy and vulnerable symbols of freedom soaring over seascapes, or predatory oppressors, ruthlessly tearing each other’s flesh. Officious gendarmes at Calais possess sinister beaks and beady eyes as well as paperwork and the power to confiscate shoes.
Scene after scene is presented with an extraordinary level of detail, the images resonating long after the show’s end. We see the boys as hunched, huddled figures in hoodies scurrying past Metro entrances, scavenging in bins among ketchup-smeared takeaway packets in sordid corners of the city.
Changing perspectives increase the work’s powerful immediacy. There are sudden close-ups – the grasping hands of a mercenary people trafficker emerging from the gloom – while a rape scene occurs at a panned-out distance amid a vista of remote Greek countryside. It has a devastating impact. Though the solitary viewing experience is entirely necessary, it loses some of the emotional potency of a shared theatrical event. Nevertheless, Flight is a personal and political act of bearing witness, a deeply important and innovative work.