Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Culture

‘Jack Absolute Flies Again’ Review – The National Theatre’s Original Takes Off

Kelvin Fletcher as Dudley and Laurie Davidson as Jack Absolute. Photo by Brinkhoff-Moegenburg. The image has been cropped and compressed.

Roar writer Sumithra Muttiah reviews ‘Jack Absolute Flies Again’, a riotous comedy that longs for the days of Britain’s past.

Witty, eccentric, and packed with asides, this new period piece follows four RAF pilots, led by the titular Jack Absolute (Laurie Davidson), at the height of the Second World War as they attempt to get lucky in love. Here, the doom and gloom of the war is an afterthought.

Adapted from Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1775 play ‘The Rivals’, the show, like most comedies of manners, is packed with witticisms, artificial plotting, and social commentary. The pacing and staging are immaculate, making its two-and-a-half-hour runtime feel much shorter. While the first act is slow to take off (pardon the pun), the play jumps into action in its second half as the sprawling cast of characters introduced in witty (and perhaps self-indulgent) asides begin to interact in gloriously chaotic ensemble scenes. What follows is a Shakespearean tale of mistaken identities and misappropriated affections, in which we see Jack, disguised as his working-class compatriot Dudley (Kelvin Fletcher), woo the aristocratic Lydia (Millie Hikasa) in an exhilarating scene midway through the play featuring nearly the entire cast, who are all invested in this central love story.

Caroline Quentin as Mrs Malaprop, Peter Forbes as Anthony Absolute, Laurie Davidson as Jack Absolute, and Natalie Simpson as Lydia Languish. Photo by Brinkhoff-Moegenburg. The image has been cropped and compressed.

This electricity is replicated a few times more. We see it in a fantastic swing dance number interspersed with a battle of words between Jack and Lydia where they debate the logistics of rekindling their romance and in a climactic boxing match between the pilots and Dudley as the battle of affections comes to a head.

The play seems to be nostalgic for a bygone Britain, with its Wildean script full of wordplay and its humorous but heartfelt look at the upper-class, who are personified by the parental figures of Anthony Absolute and Mrs. Malaprop (played delightfully by Peter Forbes and Caroline Quentin, respectfully).

Laurie Davidson as Jack Absolute. Photo by Brinkhoff-Moegenburg. The image has been cropped and compressed.

The downfall of the play lies in its inconsequence. While it acknowledges the work of women and Commonwealth soldiers in the RAF in the form of Lydia and Jack’s Australian and Indian colleagues, and the discrimination they face is lampshaded, it is never resolved. The audience surrogate in this world of aristocratic snobbery is Lydia’s maid Lucy, played in a scene-stealing turn by Kerry Howard, who brings the only source of depth to this otherwise shallow story. Howard’s brash delivery conceals the sense of hope that Lucy maintains in both her relationships and the war.

Such inconsequence makes the abrupt change in tone from light, inconsequential comedy to a tragic melancholic end feel abrupt and puzzling, with the tragedy never sitting neatly next to the previous hijinks. Midway through, Lucy tells Jack to “relax, it’s theatre! You’re going to get the girl!”, a line that exemplifies the play’s true spirit. It is safe, inconsequential and has a predictable conclusion, but it puts up one hell of a riotous comedy to get there.

‘Jack Absolute Flies Again’ is playing at the National Theatre until 3 September. You can book tickets here.

Latest

Comment

Staff writer Joel Nugent provides his predictions on the next Taoiseach through his analysis of Irish party dynamics and key political issues. Most observers...

KCLSU & Societies

The annual King’s College London Student Union (KCLSU) Awards are going to be held on Tuesday 28 May 2024. The KCLSU awards are on...

Attendees playing indie games pre-release. Credits: Tanya Kapur Attendees playing indie games pre-release. Credits: Tanya Kapur

Culture

Staff Writer Wyatt Au Young covers the recent Game Day X event at Strand Campus and interviews its CEO Tanya Kapur on the game...

Music Festival Stage and Crowd Music Festival Stage and Crowd

Culture

Staff Writer Cruz Glynka overviews London’s music festival offer and recommends six events worth checking out. The weather is warming, and the sun is...

KCLSU & Societies

Roar can exclusively reveal that real terms expenditure by King’s College London (KCL) Sport & Wellbeing was 10% lower over the last five years...

Culture

Staff Writer Cruz Glynka overviews London’s music festival offer and recommends six events worth checking out. The weather is warming, and the sun is...

Events

On 25 April, students from King’s for Change, a member group of grassroots campaign organisation Citizens UK, ushered in over 2,000 civilian attendees to...

Culture

Staff Writer Evelyn Shepphird examines the triumphs and pitfalls of Tim Price’s new play ‘Nye’, now playing at the National Theatre until May 2024....

Culture

Photography Lead Emma Carmichael captures the life and soul of Exmouth Market – a hidden jewel in the London borough of Islington. I could...