THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN
by Brian Mitchell and Joseph Nixon.
New Perspectives Theatre Company tour to 16 May 2010.
Runs 2hr One interval.
Review Mark Courtice 5 February at Corn Exchange Newbury.
Enterprising, entertaining adventure story really takes off
Enterprising New Perspectives Theatre Company presumably persuaded East Midlands Airport to sponsor this cheerful bio-show of flight pioneers Alcock and Brown because the two were the first to show the way now routinely taken by travellers from Jamaica to Castle Donnington. Our intrepid pair made it from Newfoundland to Ireland, but clearly would not be astonished at what they started, for they treated their crossing more as a job of work than an adventure.
They are presented as a classic light entertainment double act; Alcock is tall, thin and supercilious, and Brown is chunky and bouncy. The actor playing Brown wants to jazz the story up with a few invented disasters and a juicy villain, but Alcock wants to tell it like it was.
Writers Brian Mitchell and Joseph Nixon end up sticking with the facts, and although they start by hedging their bets in an opening sequence that tries too hard, they settle down to what feels like an authentic tone of self-depreciating matter-of-factness which makes the genuine heroism shine out. This is particularly true in the bravura sequence of the flight itself, when just the words of Alcock and Brown chronicle the astonishing risks and the bravery with which they were faced. Both men describe only the heroism of their partner: very British.
This sequence also demonstrates the strengths of Daniel Buckroyd’s entertaining production. Clever design by Helen Fownes-Davies means a satisfactorily rickety biplane is constructed on stage; very good sound and effective lighting help performers who look just right as they create the isolation and danger of iced-up engines, fog, low cloud and navigational problems.
Both performances are first-class. Popping in and out of their main character to people the stage with rivals, Irish Garda and others, Richard Earl and C. P. Hallam keep a firm hold on the two individuals who never became quite as famous as those who came later. A debate between them about the nature of fame feels like a bit of a lecture, but otherwise these are complex, funny, interesting people who it is a pleasure to meet.
Brown: Richard Earl.
Alcock: C P Hallam.
Director: Daniel Buckroyd.
Designer: Helen Fownes-Davies.
Lighting: Mark Dymock.
Sound: Tom Lishman.