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Review: Flights, Omnibus Theatre - drinking games, denials and grieving for youth

It is 17 years since the teenage Liam laid down on a road while tripping on drugs and his friends Barry (Colin Campbell), Pa (Rhys Dunlop) and Cusack (Conor Madden) gather to drink and remember his untimely death.

Rhys Dunlop; Colin Campbell; Conor Madden as Pa  Barry and Cusack photo Ste Murray
L-R Rhys Dunlop, Colin Campbell and Conor Madden in Flights by John O'Donovan. Photo Ste Murray

But this night is less about Liam and more about them and how their lives have measured up since. 

The large crowd they expect never materialises leaving them playing drinking games and darts while picking over their school days and adult life.

Barry's girlfriend has just got a good job in London so they are leaving Ireland, Pa is living on benefits, taking drugs and sofa surfing and Cusack has a baby with his wife.

Picking its way through the witty banter and amusing reminiscences is a growing mood of melancholy that reveals grief and regret.

Rhys Dunlop as Pa photo Ste Murray
Rhys Dunlop as Pa in Flights. Photo: Ste Murray

They are all stuck in some way, tethered by the past and adult cares which have eaten away at the carefree feelings of youth.

Cusack has a large mortgage on a house that isn't worth what he paid for it because of the financial crash, fatherhood means he doesn't have time to worry about anything else but there is also a quiet sense of daddy pride.

Barry is stuck trailing his girlfriend unable to express his feelings - or is the relationship merely routine, like his life?

And Pa is stuck in denial that he isn't actually living a carefree wheeze but really rather lonely.

Colin Campbell as Barry Photo Ste Murray
Colin Campbell as Barry in Flights. Photo Ste Murray

Was Liam the only one that got it right by dying young?

His story is told in three monologues and is the final poignant punch of the piece.

John O'Donovan's writing ripples with humour and humanity, witty and pregnant with underlying meaning.

Sometimes the narrative drive stutters and almost gets stuck, like its characters' lives but overall it's an amusing and reflective yarn for a dark winter night.

Flights is at the Omnibus Theatre until 29 February and I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.

It is 2 and a half hours with an interval.

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