All details on Barbican website. Below is Culture Whisper's four-star review
‘Kabul, Tehran, Istanbul, Athens, Rome, Paris, London’ – this is the mantra the two young brothers recite to keep their spirits up during their hazardous, at times terrifying, journey between their Afghan home and London.
Sitting in an individual booth, plunged in darkness with theatre-provided sterilised headphones on, we are gradually drawn into Aryan and Kabir’s story. With a narrator and two actors playing the brothers, and Mark Melville's intensely atmospheric sound design, the aural component is itself powerful and immersive enough, but its power is enhanced and graphically illustrated by the diorama of tiny wonderfully detailed scenes that slowly scrolls before our eyes.
Flight was adapted by Oliver Emanuel from Caroline Brothers’ novel Hinterland, which is based on real events, and brought to the stage by the theatre company Vox Motus. Originally commissioned by the Edinburgh Festival International Festival in 2017, it’s been touring to great acclaim ever since, and in this, its London debut, it’s not difficult to see why.
The narrative is enveloping. The more we learn about these young brothers – Kabir still a child whose voice hasn’t broken yet – the more our joint humanities merge. As they leave Kabul, Aryan carries in his pockets their meagre inheritance, a mobile phone with no SIM card and a few other belongings. Kabir, though, ‘has nothing in his pockets except dreams’.
A little later we learn Ayran loves maths: ‘he finds beauty in numbers the way someone else might find beauty in birdsong.’
They see London as the gateway to all their dreams of education and a bright future. And on they go, or rather, on we go, for now we, too, are part of their quest, each leg of the journey an achievement: Istanbul… Athens… Rome… and yet each throws up ever greater hardship, exploitation, hunger and pain, as well as the very occasional act of human kindness.
Throughout the diorama brings up unforgettable images on small stages of varying sizes at different eye-levels. The sea voyage from Turkey to Greece, with the rubber dinghy that carries the brothers as a minute dot on a vast, sometimes tempestuous sea, creates genuine anxiety. When, finally in France, the brothers come up against authority, police and immigration officers are depicted as large seagulls, their loud, harsh squawking incomprehensible to the frightened children.
Two years after leaving Kabul they finally make it to London, smuggled aboard a refrigerated lorry packed with animal carcasses, ‘ice-cold and stinking of blood’. The price they pay for their victory, though, is heart-breaking.
Flight is a co-production between the Bridge Theatre and The Barbican, such collaborations essential at a time when the Covid pandemic is wreaking havoc in the arts sector.
|What||Review Vox Motus, Flight|
|Where||Bridge Theatre, 3 Potters Fields Park, London, SE1 2SG | MAP|
|Nearest tube||London Bridge (underground)|
17 May 21 – 06 Jun 21, Starting times vary: consult Barbican website. Dur.: 45 mins no interval
|Price||£18 (+ booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book|