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'Flight' is a poignant and novel gateway to the refugee experience

Flight, which sits somewhere between art installation and theatre, relays the plight of two brothers, Aryan and Kabir, as they flee Iran en route to London where they plan to locate an uncle. 

They’re unaccompanied orphans – little kids FFS – and they endure all of the tortures and torments associated with the experience, ranging from pinching hunger and exploitation to rape.

Upon arrival, patrons are escorted into the depths of the Arts Centre – backstage, underground and somewhere you wouldn’t normally be – building a sense of displacement, which is perfect for what’s about to unfold. After lining up briefly, each punter is ushered at one-minute intervals into a seat in a private booth and pushed up close to the action with a set of headphones. 

The set up is kind of like a ViewMaster – the stage is a giant rotating drum with windows of various sizes that illuminate as the story unfolds. Each window contains a detailed diorama – miniature models of the boys on their travels. While the models aren’t bang on mini-human replicas, they’re incredibly nuanced in their expressions, and you quickly forget that your watching stationary models. Between the audio and the models, the experience is compellingly immersive. Patrons are also encouraged to look closely, just don’t touch. 

Glaswegian theatre company Vox Motus' have adapted Caroline Brother’s novel Hinterland for this show. Brother, a former foreign correspondent, applied a journalistic eye to the story, and Vox Motus follow her vision closely, sugarcoating sweet FA. With that in mind – I’m not gonna pull any punches – the end of Flight is shattering. 

While frequently bleak, Flight has a definite sense of hope – but even that’s heartbreaking. The pair’s dreams are at one end fanciful (Bruce Willis gets a look in), and at the other totally pedestrian: they dream about the stuff that many of us have the privilege of taking for granted, like eating and going to school. It’s a poignant reminder to stop whining and be grateful.

The show’s not sentimental, maudlin or deliberately trying to hammer the feels, but it does bring close the refugee experience (quite literally in a way, given that the story unfolds inches from your grill). By naming the lads and following their tribulations, the experience of fleeing a homeland is personalised, which is something Australia desperately needs right now. Like Aryan and Kabir, the detainees on Manus and Nauru are people with stories, families, loved ones, dreams and hopes, and they’ve been through and continue to brave hell. While they remain faceless and anonymous, it’s too easy to ignore their plight. Flight reminds us why we shouldn’t.    

Highlight: Flight was magical, notwithstanding its tragedy, and the set up is ingenious.

Lowlight: Not taking a hankie. There’s a tissue box outside the performance for tearful patrons, but it was too late for this punter – I bawled my heart out.

Crowd favourite: You experience Flight privately so I can't say, but for me, the most extraordinary bit was how deeply invested I was in this miniature landscape.