‘Justice in Art, as in Life’

by Jay Nordlinger

A play called Flare Path has seized the attention of London. I mention it in Impromptus today (the second and final part of a “London journal”). Flare Path was written by Terence Rattigan in 1941. It’s about RAF personnel, essentially, and their spouses. (Sorry, that was a little modern: their wives, I should have written.) The new production is directed by Trevor Nunn, and it is killer: well-nigh perfect.

Let me quote something I say in my column: “Some have complained that the play has a happy ending (or happy endings, really). I say, let 999 plays have unhappy endings. But can’t the thousandth end happily? Can’t life sometimes be right? Is that so unrealistic? I don’t think so.”

I recommend a look at Charles Moore’s column in the Daily Telegraph. Well, any of his columns, really, but I mean his particular column on Flare Path. He writes, “Friends I bumped into in the interval were almost speechless with emotion.” I can certainly understand that. And he writes, later,

“The other aspect of the play which made a deep impression was its happy ending. For 60 years now, theatre audiences have been so bludgeoned by playwrights into thinking that misery equals truth that an unhappy ending has become an almost unbreakable convention of any play claiming artistic merit. . . . There is justice in a happy ending, and people want justice in art, as in life.”

Just one more snippet: “You could not see this production without remembering it always.” Always is a long time — but that may be right.

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