Those Magnificent Men Review
The Fringe has landed a fair number of shows about the pioneers of flight – “Mission of Flowers”, “The Vanishing Horizon” and “The Wright Brothers” all spring to mind. Back in 2006 the posh International Festival hosted the modernist Brecht / Weill “The Lindbergh Flight”.
None of this will come as comfort to the writers of “Those Magnificent Men”, as they consider that Alcock and Brown, the duo who made the first ever non-stop transatlantic flight, have been somewhat forgotten. It’s a fair point. You can buy everything from radios, alarm clocks and ashtrays to pens named after Lindbergh’s Spirit of St Louis. Perhaps the pair should have come up with a catchy name for their ‘plane.
Anyway, now we have their stirring tale of derring-do as they take to the stage if not the air to recreate the record-breaking crossing. If only the actors could decide on the telling. As they merge from narrators to characters, they disagree – “Alcock” wishing to keep to the straight historical facts and the melodramatic “Brown” looking to improve and romanticise the plot with a view to a Hollywood movie. Perhaps the introduction of a baddie or a landing in Trafalgar Square? This forms a running theme examining just how far poetic license can be pushed in a bio-pic before it becomes wilful distortion.
The plot follows the World War I veterans to Newfoundland and their preparations amongst those competing to be the first to cross the Atlantic and pick up the £10,000 prize offered by the Daily Mail. The Vickers Vimy biplane is formed, literally, from packing cases and they take to the skies to begin their epic sixteen and a half hour flight through fog, hail, snow and not a little peril, armed with nothing more than a sandwich and a flask of cocoa.
Despite “Brown’s” concern that things need pepping up a bit, amidst the gentle comedy there are thrills aplenty along with moments of pathos. The whole production feels lovingly crafted from the portrayal of the dashing yet modest heroes, with stiff upper lips and lashings-of-ginger-beer accents, to the excellent set, sound and lighting designs and news-sheet programme.
Never mind Spirit of St Louis, it’s very much in the spirit of the Fringe.
Show times: 3-29 (except 17) August 2011 1.15pm
Ticket prices:£11.00 (£10.00) - £12.00 (£11.00)