City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Wright Brothers Review

By Kenneth Scott - Posted on 11 August 2011

The Wright Brothers - Oxford Playhouse
Show details
Oxford Playhouse
Running time: 
Toby Hulse (director), David Hastings (writer), Susannah Henry (set/costume designer), Alan Brown/Matt Hulse (film)
Timothy Allsop (Wilbur Wright), Robin Hemmings (Orville Wright)

Orville and Wilbur Wright stand like two overgrown schoolboys, sending paper aeroplanes out over the heads of the audience. Some glide, some crash, demonstrating the difficulty of flight even in a primitive form. Did paper ‘planes even exist before the Wright Brothers? Probably, but the idea of powered, heavier-than-air flight was dismissed as impossible – something that wouldn’t happen for 10 million years.

We fly back in time to the turn of the 20th Century, when innovations were happening apace – moving pictures, telephones, transatlantic telegraph - and the only frontier left to explore was up. Quite a challenge for two small town bicycle builders.

Against an elegant set of bleached wood supporting a sail structure, like a disassembled glider, we witness the brothers piece together the jigsaw of early research and the work of other pioneers, each firing the other to persevere and make ground-breaking advances, based on science but seemingly plucked from the air. “I wish we had gone to college” they comment before inventing the wind tunnel.

While the struggle into the air takes centre stage, we do learn a little about the background of the brothers and small clues to their nature and interaction are revealed in the simple act of changing into their workshop clothes between scenes. The telling is helped by projections onto the “wing”, a key eureka moment is nicely captured and they manage to convey the excitement and danger of early test flights with little more than a plank. Strangely, when the defining moment of flight does come it is narrated rather than dramatised.

The production is a comprehensive, and often visually striking account of a pivotal moment but in the same way that the Wrights struggle to find the winning formula, there is a missing coefficient – perhaps emotional content – that would truly allow it to soar.

Show times: 5-27 (except 8,15 and 21) August 2011, 1.30pm

Ticket prices: £10.00 (£9.00) - £11.00 (£10.00)