Flight, The McKittrick Hotel & Emurisve

"Kabul, Tehran, Istanbul, Athens, Rome, London"


Presented by The McKittrick Hotel & Emursive
By Vox Motus Theater Company

Based on the novel "Hinterland" by Caroline Brothers

Adapted by Oliver Emanuel
Directed by Candice Edmunds and Jamie Harrison

Simon Wilkinson (Lighting Design)
Rebecca Hamilton (Co-Designer & Lead Model Maker)
Mark Melville (Composer & Sound Designer)

March 4, 2018

Although I attend more theater than your average Jane, I still get nervous when my friends ask for recommendations. Especially if I haven't seen the show, I worry that even a well-known company can produce a flop, and my friends' trust will be dashed. They'll never listen to me again, I'll be compelled to only attend theater alone, everything I have to say will be moot, and I'll end up cold and alone covered in piles of take-out boxes perusing old articles on Broadway World and caressing my Playbills.

So despite my trepidation at making recommendations for Flight, an "experimental" and mysterious work I knew little about, I decided to trust my gut. Three friends joined me on the journey which, we would discover, ended up being completely personal, utterly tragic, and uplifting in a way that reaffirmed my faith in the ingenuity and ambition of human creativity.

My friend's response after: "Wow."

Flight is currently scheduled to play until April 2018, but if you plan to see it I recommend skipping the spoilers below. It's too important and innovative to ruin with a blog post.

My friend is taken first to find his seat, and I wait cross-legged and alone in the dimly lit lobby. It's sparse, with black curtains, grey carpet, and two stuffed ravens in flight in the rafters. When the usher returns to collect me I follow into what feels like a peep show: a round wooden structure sits in darkness, surrounded by chairs every 5' where audience members sit frozen in complete silence, staring into the darkness.

I'm given a seat and headphones, and told that the show will begin "as soon as the white light has disappeared." What in the world, I'm thinking. As I adjust the headphones I hear children's laughter, the caw of ravens, and calming sounds of ocean waves in the distance. Then I'm plunged into compete darkness.

A small point of light eases in to reveal a diorama, no, a series of dioramas. The wooden structure is turning like a carousel and the audience is sitting on its circumference. The headphones and small vignettes are aligned perfectly, and it's like watching a graphic novel in three dimensions. Each scene is subtly different, yet conveys mountains of meaning and movement. Voice actors marry with scenes of two brothers fleeing Afghanistan, struggling to reach London, and facing terrors along the way.

Kabir and Aryan are refugees, and we are given secret and intimate access to their harrowing journey. "Kabir has nothing in his pockets except dreams," the narrator says, and through sensory deprivation we join him. Outside the individually lit scene, darkness is overwhelming. All attention is focused on the story.

The boys' journey is nearly impossible, yet they retain hope. The young brothers only want to reach London to attend school, and the odds that are stacked against them return as black ravens, dead and floating on the sea or being shot from the sky by a rifle.

Impeccable design details bring their journey to life, including minuscule orange trees, waves smaller than 3cm crashing onto a raft, and the flickering glow of embers in a camp stove the size of your pinky fingernail. 2mm long cigarette butts litter the model streets, and a line of car tail lights disappears far back into the carousel.

The beauty of this piece is its completely unique approach to storytelling. It's a graphic novel come to life, a model train set with pristine lighting, an auditory play illustrated with complex dioramas. It's all these and more.

Upon exiting, my friends and I walk in silence. Bright sun exposes our privileged positions as middle-class Americans and we sigh in acknowledgement of similarities between ourselves and the boys in demeanor, if not in circumstance. I find compassion and empathy in their footsteps.

Thankfully my friends will continue to trust me, and I hope you, dear reader, will too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *