BWW Review: FLIGHT at McKittrick Hotel is More Art Installation Than Theatre
There are no live actors involved in the Scottish theatre company Vox Motus' new storytelling attraction, FLIGHT, and though New York's theatre critics were invited to sample showings at the McKittrick Hotel, their creation can be more accurately described as an art installation.
Which isn't a bad thing, of course, but someone reading the show's website description as "an original form of theatrical storytelling" based on British playwright Oliver Emanuel's adaptation of Caroline Brothers' 2012 novel, "Hinterland" might be misled into thinking something live would be involved.
Though FLIGHT is only 45 minutes long, the piece is performed continuously for hours with customers purchasing tickets for time slots. (5pm to 9:30pm on weekdays, 2pm to 11pm on weekends) Each viewer is led individually to one of the small booths that circles the perimeter of a slowly moving carousel that holds a multitude of dioramas depicting scenes. Headphones play a recorded presentation of the story, utilizing voice actors and sound design by Mark Melville.
As the carousel spins, you experience moments right after the person on one side of you, and just before the person on the other.
Based on the novelist's interviews with refugees, the story involves orphaned brothers, the child Kabir (Nalini Chetty) and his teenage brother Aryan (Farshid Rokey), who flee war-torn Afghanistan seeking sanctuary in England. They optimistically plan out their proposed route as Kabul-Tehran-Istanbul-Athens-Rome-Paris-London.
At first this may seem like an appropriate attraction for children, but parents and guardians should be advised that acts of oppression, and even rape, are dramtized in the episodic adventure.
The main attraction of co-directors Candice Edmunds and Jamie Harrison's creation is the collection of miniature scenes that slowly pass by. Lead model maker Rebecca Hamilton, character artist Sav Scatola, storyboard artist Kenneth MacLeod and lighting designer Simon Wilkinson present an extraordinarily detailed parade of people and locations, continually seen from various angles, perspectives and viewpoints.
But while the visuals of FLIGHT are impressive, they overwhelm the narrative and the relatively short presentation begins dragging midway though. FLIGHT is an admirable technical achievement based on a clever concept, but for a story about two young boys fleeing for their lives, there's little emotional payoff.