Flare Path

Definition

Theater

  • A play by Terence Rattigan, which opened in 1942 atthe Apollo Theatre, London, and ran for 670 performances. Rattigandrew on his wartime experiences in the RAF to depict the tensionsfelt by aircrew and the women they love on the night of a bombing raidagainst Germany. The patriotism of the piece provided a considerable boost to the war effort in Britain; it was also well received in America,where Alec Guinness starred in the first Broadway production.

    A curious footnote to the story of Flare Path involves Dr Keith Newman, a maverick psychiatrist whom Rattigan had adopted as his guru and mentor. Newman was in one sense the begetter of the play, as it was he who had urged Rattigan to seek active service in the RAF as a cure for depression. When Flare Path opened in London, Newman conceived the singular project of watching every performance with the original leads in orderto see what psychological or other insights this afforded him. The result was his book 250 Times I Saw a Play. When G. B. Shaw was sent a copy he noted that such an experience "would have driven me mad" and wondered whether Newman had not come out of it with "a slight derangement". These words proved sadly prophetic: Newman suffered a complete mental breakdownin 1945 and ended his life in an institution.

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