Melbourne Festival Flight - photo by Mihaila BodlovicCaroline Brothers’ novel, Hinterland, was published in 2013. It is the story of two Afghani boys, Aryan and younger brother Kabir, travelling on foot, hoping to reach safety with family in the UK. Glasgow-based company Vox Motus and Oliver Emanuel have inventively adapted this story in producing Flight.

Hinterland drew on Brothers’ time as a journalist with Reuters and The New York Times International Edition. Whilst her characters are fictitious, the events they endure and the resolve they display were informed by real accounts of, or interviews with, unaccompanied refugee children.

News reports of large-scale human tragedies abroad can lead us to feel overwhelmed or completely useless. Following the intent of Hinterland, Vox Motus deftly sidestep such morale-sapping reactions by narrowing our focus to the human scale.

Each audience member in the group of up to 25 people per session will has their own intimate experience of the story. Each views Flight from your own booth, as a carousel scrolls past for some 65 minutes.

Listening through headphones, the viewer is presented with recesses, showing miniature figurines of Aryan, Kabir, and various others. Scene backdrops varied as the boys travelled across Europe on foot following their plan: “Kabul, Tehran, Istanbul, Athens, Rome, Paris, London”.

The scenes, sometimes very detailed, coupled with the recorded dialogue and sound effects, could assemble in the mind’s eye to make vivid animation. The boys endured various challenges and hostilities, yet treat most as mere temporary setbacks. Kabir in particular has great plans for what he will achieve in London, and at night dreams of flying free like a bird.

There was the odd time when an omen featured in a tableau with a somewhat unlikely frequency. Otherwise, you’d have to try very hard to fault this storytelling, at times disturbing, at others joyful. Gently woven throughout are reminders that the boys are on the move to ensure their own survival. We’re nudged to wonder, if we had the ill fortune to be displaced from our safe circumstances, would we act so differently?

The resilience of the refugee children who inspired the work is honoured and celebrated. Appropriately, Aryan and Kabir’s experiences are not sugar-coated, ensuring that we can’t just leave feeling good about the boys’ adventures, and move on to something else.

The cleverly chosen title here means more than a hasty departure from danger. Australians in 2018 might be prompted to appreciate that desperate people can only be resilient for so long, and a little lift from prosperous people in secure countries is what we all need to achieve Flight.

Go and be entranced by the storytelling of Flight. It’s an affecting tale, and some will appreciate the tissue boxes waiting as you depart somewhat unsteadily from your session.

Playhouse Rehearsal Room – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Performance: Sunday 7 October 2018 – 12.45pm
Season continues to 21 October 2018
Information and Bookings: www.festival.melbourne

Image: Flight – photo by Mihaila Bodlovic

Review: Jason Whyte

Caroline Brothers will appear at The Channel – Arts Centre Melbourne on Sunday 14 October – 11.00am. In this free MIAF session, Storytelling in a Jaded World, she will discuss her time as a foreign correspondent, Hinterland, and its adaptation, with Jacinta Parsons of ABC Radio Melbourne.