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A CurtainUp London London Review
Flight Path

And you want to try spending a night in my life!— Jonathan
Flight Path
Cary Crankson as Jonathan and Ashley Madekwe as Lauren. (Photo: Graham Michael)
David Watson is 22 years of age and Flight Path is his second play produced on the London stage. It tells of the pressures on an 18 year old boy who has a 25 year old handicapped brother. Their father has left home to be with his girlfriend and their social worker mother seems to always put her work first. The result is that Jonathan (Cary Crankson) is more and more responsible for looking after Daniel (Scott Swadkins) who has been through a succession of residential institutions and has now come home to live.

Besides trying to get good 'A' level results, Jonathan is also working at the airport where he becomes friendly with small time burglar Joe (Jason Maza) who persuades Jonathan to join him in theft. The only light in Jonathan's life is Joe's beautiful girlfriend, Lauren (Ashley Madekwe).

Watson's writing is fresh and natural. The language is youth speak but a vocabulary list in the programme will fill in an older generation with a ready translation of unusual words and phrases. It would be so easy to become mawkish with the central character's responsibility for a handicapped person but the issues are covered realistically and the denouement is warming without becoming sentimental.

The production has both The Bush Theatre and Out of Joint's pedigree and expertise behind it, but the young cast are exceptionally adept.

Jonathan's parents are a salutary lesson for all parents in the audience. The first scene shows Jonathan's anger at his father Sean (Will Knightley) removing himself from the family by moving into a bachelor flat. In a later scene, Sean never shows up to attend Daniel's birthday party. However, Susan (Mossie Smith) is so mealy mouthed and manipulative that she almost persuades you to sympathise with Sean's actions. She is sadly typical of those employed by social services who fail to care for their own family because they are so busy sorting out the lives of others. Jonathan starts to finds he cannot cope with his examination work as his time is consumed by Danny. The stress starts to change his behaviour. He makes bad decisions around Joe his friend on the ASBO (Anti Social Behaviour Order) and loses his patience with Danny who needs Jonathan to change the wet bed linen at night. Jonathan gets more and more frantic and it is very moving as he starts to blame himself for everything that has gone wrong.

The set is minimal and adaptable, the cast moving a few pieces on the scene changes but in the final scene the stage boards are unfolded to reveal a different setting hiding under the wooden surface.

The central performances are very fine. Scott Swadkins as Daniel is himself a handicapped actor and his stage debut in Flight Path as a young man with Down's Syndrome is astonishing and affecting. Credit too goes to RADA graduate Cary Crankson as Jonathan, who is by turns dry, witty, cynical, amusing, even as we feel he may snap under the strain of responsibility for his brother. Ashley Madekwe is Lauren, the girl who has little education but who sees clearly what Jonathan and Danny need and it is Lauren whose natural intelligence ultimately makes a difference for both of them.

Written by David Watson
Directed by Naomi Jones

With: Will Knightley, Cary Crankson, Scott Swadkins, Jason Maza, Ashley Madekwe, Mossie Smith
Design: Polly Sullivan
Lighting: Natasha Chivers
Sound: Carolyn Dowling
A joint Bush Theatre and Out of Joint production
Running time: 1hour 50 minutes without an interval
Box Office: 020 7610 4224
Booking at the Bush Theatre to 6th October 2007 then on tour as below
9th to 13th October 2007 Birmingham Repertory Theatre (The Door) 0121 236 4455
15th and 16th October 2007 Trinity Theatre Tunbridge Wells 01892 678 678
18th to 20th October 2007 Sherman Theatre, Cardiff 029 2064 6900
30th and 31st October 2007 Wakefield Arts Centre 01924 211 311
2nd and 3rd November 2007 Mill Studio, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford 01483 44 00 00
6th to 10th November 2007 Traverse Theatre Edinburgh 0131 228 1404
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 18th September performance at the Bush Theatre, Shepherds Bush Green, London W12 (Tube: Shepherds Bush)

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