A stunningly different diorama-style adaptation of Caroline Brothers's refugee novel 'Hinterland'
It’s rare to come across something genuinely new in the theatre, but I can fairly confidently say I’ve never seen anything exactly like Vox Motus’s ‘Flight’, an adaptation of Caroline Brothers’ 2012 novel ‘Hinterland’ about two young Afghan orphans’s epic journey to London. It kind of takes the form of a giant, moving diorama, wherein the story is told by little model scenes that light up as they trundle past the viewer on a huge revolve, with accompanying narration beamed in by headphones.
‘New’ isn’t necessarily the same as ‘radical’, though, and there’s something essentially comforting about ‘Flight’, which comes across like a self-playing graphic novel that you could possibly imagine being at the heart of a particularly audacious model museum.
It is a marvel of effort and engineering, and stunningly pretty – almost distractingly so. Even when young heroes Aryan and Kabir get into some some awful situations it’s still beautiful – Kabir’s rape by a predatory stranger at a Grecian farmhouse looks strangely picturesque in the chosen form, shocking as it is. As a piece of theatre it perhaps works better at conveying the scale of the boys’ journey than its rigours: the most memorable panel for me was the sudden, unexpected shot of an Italian highway at night, boring far into the centre of the revolve. It’s only the French gendarmes – stylised to look like big, predatory seagulls – that add a sense of horror.
I suppose ultimately the extraordinariness of the form and the extraordinariness of the journey feel like they are in competition, and inevitably it's the form that emerges as the most memorable bit. There is the sense it would probably have been equally memorable if Vox Motus had picked a completely different story to adapt in this way for the Edinburgh International Festival. But that’s not take away from the sweeping sense of journey, or the force of its tearjerker final scene.