By Terence Rattigan
22 - 27 October, 2012
Peter Kyle translates the Count's last letter to the Countess
Teddy makes it back but has a wounded hand
Mrs Miller is late for her bus home
Count returns loud singing ensues
Rattigan’s famous play concerns Patricia’s love for a film actor
despite her marriage to Flight-Lieutenant Teddy Graham. Teddy is celebrating
a reunion with his wife when he is called for an urgent bombing mission over
Going to the hotel to break with Teddy, and followed by Peter, Patricia encounters Doris, who is married to a Polish count who is one of two pilots not to return from a bombing raid. Pat re-thinks her life.
A story of love and loyalty, courage and fear.
“The young men of Bomber Command applied extraordinary devotion to a job they were told was vital to defeat Hitler, while knowing it would probably kill them”
“Flare Path" was written in the darkest days of the Second World War and based on Rattigan's own war time experience as a rear gunner flying dangerous missions in RAF bombers. The strain of flying bomber operations was unique: in contrast to the even tenor of fear and discomfort facing a soldier on the battlefield or sailor at sea, the “bomber boys " took off from the flat fields of Lincolnshire or Yorkshire on a calm English rural evening, flew eight or nine hours into a hell of flak, searchlights and night fighters over Germany, then returned to drink in the pub or snatch desperate embraces with wives and girlfriends. 55,573 airmen who served in RAF Bomber Command lost their lives over the course of the Second World War. The survival rate was less than 50%.
It is 1942. At the Falcon Hotel on the Lincolnshire coast, men from a nearby RAF airbase are planning to spend the weekend with their wives .It's a place where lips are worn stiff and tension is relieved by alcohol and banter. Patricia Graham, an actress from London, has something to tell her husband Teddy, who is a bomber pilot. The situation is complicated when Peter Kyle, a Hollywood film star, arrives at the hotel, and Teddy is sent out on a night raid over Germany. Meanwhile the grandly named Countess Skriczevinsky awaits the return of her Polish Count now serving with the RAF and Teddy's tail-gunner Dusty Miller waits for his wife Maudie / who is late arriving.
This is a tribute to the collective spirit of wartime bomber crews and their partners. A deeply moving and yet profoundly funny portrait of people at war. Their true feelings are often hidden beneath understatement or comedy but the passion and humanity within is as enduring as our collective memory of their quiet heroism.