It’s 17 years since the death of Liam, the same number of years he was alive. And as they have done every year since, a group of friends meet to commemorate the anniversary. Except that after 17 years their lives have moved on and now only three have made the effort to show up at the place they had spent many teenage evenings chatting, drinking, playing darts. Everyone else is celebrating the present at another friend’s 30th birthday in town.
What we witness from the remaining trio of Barry, Pa and Cusack (superbly played by Colin Campbell, Rhys Dunlop and Conor Madden) is the type of conversation we’ve probably all had in varying degrees; the recollection of schooldays, friends still around, friends who have moved away, the hopes we had when younger, some fulfilled but many now a distant dream. There is even the recital of lists, in a very Nick Hornby High Fidelity kind of way. And, as with many good nights out, there is plenty of booze and a questionable amount of drugs. The problem is that the three have changed, or at least two have. One is still clinging to the past, almost a child in an adult’s body, resenting how his friends have moved on and are not treating the night with the reverence it deserves.
It’s a testament to the production that even at over two hours long it rarely threatens to overstay its welcome. This is quite a feat when you consider that for nearly its entire length we are simply watching three 30-somethings sit around discussing life, with little else to break things up. Maybe it’s the soft humour scattered throughout. Perhaps it’s the near faultless delivery of the three actors. And it’s certainly aided by Peter Power’s sound design, the gently lapping of waves in the background almost hypnotic at times. What certainly helps is that Omnibus Theatre has some of the most comfortable fringe theatre seats I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in for quite some time.
The only breaks we get from their conversation are three monologues, each of the three taking a turn to address the audience as Liam, the long-departed friend, so giving us insight into his story. As the sound changes and Zia Bergin-Holly’s lighting focuses intently on each of them alone, the tension mounts and we bear witness to a life tragically cut short. It adds flesh to the bones already laid out by the three friends. The final monologue, delivered by Rhys Dunlop, is a thing of beauty and sorrow, as he looks into the future Liam may have had, voicing all the hopes and dreams of a 17-year-old just venturing out into adulthood.
Flights is a beautiful and moving piece of theatre. It explores how friendships change as we grow, as our lives change. It gives thought to how we dream as children about what the future may hold; dreams which won’t all come true. There is a sorrow within the writing, but it’s a sorrow that is also tinged with hope and understanding that friends are a blessing to be clung to; that friends that will stick with you through the ups and downs of life, something we maybe take too much for granted at times.
Come the end, I dare anyone not to be thinking of those friends lost way too soon, may they always be in our memories.
Written by: John O’Donovan
Directed by: Thomas Martin
Produced by: Alan Mahon
Playing until: 29 February 2020
Booking link: https://www.omnibus-clapham.org/flights/