Playhouse Rehearsal Room, Arts Centre Melbourne
October 6, 2018

Staged in a rehearsal room backstage at Arts Centre Melbourne, finding your seat for Flight becomes part of the experience. You “check in” in the main foyer and are then taken backstage in a group of eight, where you wait in an entrance area until one by one you are led into the dark room, seated in an individual booth and given a pair of headphones.

The “performance” takes place via a rolling display of miniature dioramas on a huge, slowly turning carousel, each tiny scene lighting up as it reaches you as the story unfolds to a soundtrack on your headphones featuring a narrator (Emun Elliott), dialogue by actors and sound effects.

Flight is adapted by Oliver Emanuel from the novel Hinterland by Australian author Caroline Brothers and tells the story of two young orphaned brothers Aryan and Kabir who leave Afghanistan as refugees, optimistically dreaming of a better life and a good education in England. Farshid Rokey voices the teenaged, protective Aryan, while Nalini Chetty provides the voice of the younger Kabir.

Their journey, as you’d expect, is full of struggle and terrible set-backs as they take to a rickety boat, climb hills, are exploited as lowly paid farm workers, abused by a “smiling man”, turned back by French police (portrayed as screeching seagulls), and, horrifyingly, travel in a refrigerated meat truck. Every now and then someone kind helps them.

Produced by Scottish company Vox Motus, Flight was a hit at the Edinburgh International Festival. Directed by Jamie Harrison and Candice Edmunds, and co-designed by Harrison and lead model maker Rebecca Hamilton, it is an unusual, adventurous way to stage the story. The tiny little scenes – some of which show a detailed scenario, some of which just pan in on a character’s head – are cleverly done. But the narration feels pretty simplistic and never really shows that their story is part of a global refugee crisis.

The show runs for 45 minutes, with 25 audience members seated at any one time. As your time ends, an usher guides you away and someone else takes your place. Shown the way out, you are told that there are chairs and water available if you need time to recover, but Flight doesn’t have that kind of emotional impact or strike at the heart as such a story really should. Still it’s a fascinating experience to watch the way it has been put together, and a pressing, urgent tale that needs sharing.

Flight runs until October 21


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