EFR - Reviews of Flight

Flight

Mon 17th – Mon 31st August 2015

reviews

Josie Finlay

at 08:43 on 24th Aug 2015

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Curbside’s production of Flight, a quirky reworking of the tale of the Little Prince aimed mainly at children, is a consistently charming and impressive piece of physical theatre. The story has been retold by Ezra LeBank in a whimsical and highly original poetic style, and is narrated by LeBank himself while he and the rest of the company, dancer/acrobats Cynthia Price and Taylor Casas, weave skilfully around each other’s bodies and contort themselves effortlessly and somehow wittily into impossible shapes to illustrate the tale. The piece’s opening is particularly smile-inducing – addressed directly and unpatronisingly by the storytellers, the audience is gently welcomed and encouraged to make an ‘mmm’ sound whenever we hear the words ‘remember’ or ‘forget’, like a thoughtful version of pantomime. The piece then begins to unfold in a glorious harmony of acrobatic movement, poetry and audience interaction, beginning with a mind-blowingly realistic simulation of a moving aeroplane, constructed of nothing but the cast’s bodies. For the first half of the show, I was consistently enchanted by each and every detail of the performance, and couldn’t quite believe the company’s skill in using their bodies to bring life and soul to inanimate objects.

However, as the piece continued I began to question the effect that the show would have on its intended audience. Whilst I commend the effort that the writers have made to treat their young viewers with respect, avoiding patronisation and kiddie-talk, I can’t help but wonder if a significant amount of the content of the play might go over their heads. I have to admit that I began to drift off as the narrative continued into the second half – whilst the beauty and originality never diminishes, the formulaic structure is slightly repetitive and I suspect that I wasn’t the only audience member growing restless. Flight is a production that pays tribute to the colourful, flexible childhood mind, but forgets that this mind is often prone to be overridden by a short attention span.

Perhaps Flight should be avoided, then, by kids under a certain age, or by those of a fidgety disposition. But what sticks in the mind after the show is the extreme nimbleness of the cast, who manage to transcend both the boundaries of the Assembly Roxy stage, and the boundaries of appearing human – a particular highlight was Casas’ totally believable portrayal of a cactus, and a sassy one at that. Despite its length and slight overestimation of its audience, Flight remains memorable as an extremely smart and playful celebration of imagination and creativity.

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Becky Wilson

at 10:48 on 24th Aug 2015

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This innovative retelling of the popular children’s tale ‘The Little Prince’ is not the sort of show you’ll often come across. Performers Ezra LeBank, Cynthia Price and Taylor Casas, from Californian company Curbside, use their bodies in infinitely creative ways to depict the adventures of a female prince as she explores the world.

As well as being Flight’s playwright, LeBank plays a pilot, who befriends the prince and becomes the solo narrator of her story. Many of his self-penned lines are yearningly poetic: most memorable is his statement that “the waves are like a hundred million laughs”. What this play cherishes most dearly is the insight, imagination and inquisitiveness of children. The pilot eventually learns to reject the “silly” world that adults inhabit, concluding that children see things how they really are.

While LeBank’s linguistic attempts are striking, I fear his target audience aren’t listening. His fast-paced storytelling competes with the physical spectacle for the children’s attention and often loses out. There is certainly a lot of restlessness amongst the younger children in the audience, giving the impression that this production is largely unsuitable for those under the age of six or seven.

Despite this, physical theatre enthusiasts would probably find this production worth watching solely for its visual effects. The majority of the incredible, almost inhuman movement is undertaken by Price and Casas, though LeBank is also an important element. Over the course of the show, the trio interlock bodies, perform magnificent gymnastic tricks and, in incredible feats of strength, hold each other high in the air by outstretched graceful limbs. They portray cacti, sand dunes, sea creatures, and even an aeroplane in perfectly-rehearsed synchronicity, illustrating the little prince’s travels across the desert and sea.

There are certain moments in this play when the dancers manage to convey LeBank’s words to utter perfection. At one point, Price and Casas fold their bodies into the shape of a fat baker’s huge belly, wobbling contentedly every time he eats. Their bodies become vehicles to our own imagination, sketching the outline but inviting us to fill in the gaps for ourselves.

Perhaps for the same reason, the set is very minimalistic. Clever lighting changes transport us from the desert to the ocean: other than this, the rest is left for us to conjure.

It is clear that this performance is only for those who possess a good imagination and relatively long concentration span. Younger children will struggle to sit through the entire production, and miss out on a lot of this production’s nuance. Nevertheless, the physical movement is amazing to watch, and LeBank’s narration a powerful homage to the delicate and wonderful mind of a child.

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