Bleak, tender and shot through with stinging black humour, Flights is a meandering but intricately written meditation on the joyful recklessness of youth and the aimlessness of early adulthood.
It’s the story of three 30-something mates attending an annual drink-and-drug-fuelled wake for a dead school friend, an event getting quieter each year as more and more of the old gang move on with their lives.
Author John O’Donovan packs the play with ideas, allowing skilfully written screeds of directionless banter to develop with exquisite slowness into heartfelt musings on enduring friendship, frustrated masculinity and the crushing impact of austerity economics. As in his award-winning, unforgettably titled debut If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You, there’s a real sense of place and time here, evoking a vivid small-town Ireland populated by utterly believable characters.
Conor Madden is intensely recognisable as new parent Cusack, happy at home but yearning to cut loose, as he used to. Beside him, Colin Campbell’s put-upon Barry finds himself helplessly dragged along by events, while Rhys Dunlop’s raddled, bright but unemployable Pa spirals downwards, full of mercurial energy and painful vulnerability.
Barring a few heightened, powerfully poetic passages, director Thomas Martin gives the show an unhurried naturalistic staging. His cast members lounge about on Naomi Faughnan’s striking set – a half-constructed shell of a house with walls of blue shrink-wrap – swapping stories and poignant revelations as they soak in booze, nostalgia and emotional exhaustion.