This review is for a first preview, so please bear this in mind when reading
Terence Rattigan's centenary has seen a number of his plays either revived or premiered. Trevor Nunn's choice is Flare Path, titled so because of the series of flares set out on airfields to light pilots on their way as they set off for air raids. Set in the midst of World War Two in a hotel full of fighter pilots and their wives, Rattigan sets out an awkward love triangle - an airman, his actress wife and her fling with a former co-star. Surrounding this are the stories of the other pilots and their relationships.
Sienna Miller is a pleasant and believable choice as conflicted actress Pat, who is visiting husband Teddy (Harry Hadden-Paton) at his airbase for the first time. She has felt herself drift from him over the course of their short marriage, finding herself committing adultery with film star and former co-star Peter Kyle (a solid and charming James Purefoy), whom she had been sleeping with previous to her whirlwind romance with Teddy, and who turns up unexpectedly at her hotel, forcing her to make a choice between the two sooner rather than later.
As airman Teddy, harbouring a painful secret beneath his friendly, confident demeanour, the less famous but no less talented Harry Hadden-Paton, recently seen in Prince of Homburg at the Donmar, is the best thing in the whole production. Hadden-Paton makes Teddy charming and affable, relatable and kind - the sort of chap you want to spend reams of time with, but he is also able to gain the audience's sympathy with a heart-rending scene between Teddy and Pat late in the play. It's worth seeing Flare Path if only for his performance.
Sheridan Smith also tugs at the heartstrings as Doris, married to Polish airman Count Skriczevinsky (a sweet Mark Dexter), who can barely speak English (and as such provides many of the somewhat outdated - laughs in the production). Although her choice of accent was a little overly reminiscent of her role as Janet in Two Pints of Lager, Smith is actually an extremely versatile actress, able to run the gamut from funny to barely suppressed despair.
Flare Path is essentially quite a gentle play, despite the subject matter. It sits very much in the middle of comedy and drama, and there's certainly some tightening up to be done on the pacing in order to ensure the audience doesn't drift away. It's a nice production - not dazzling, but enough to ensure a thoughtful night out at the theatre.