Those Magnificent Men

It may not surprise you to learn that Those Magnificent Men shares a framing device with the film that shares half of its name. The story is based on the real-life race to achieve the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic, spurred on by a £10,000 prize offered by the founder of the Daily Mail. Stepping up to the plate are a pair of all-round British aviators: pilot John Alcock, the straight-laced one, and navigator Arthur Whitten Brown, the kooky one. Oh dear.The two pilots narrate their journey to get from Newfoundland to Ireland in less than 72 hours. The show comes from a story-telling angle and the actors shift between blank canvases and playing the roles of Alcock and Brown. The play attempts to turn the two plucky aviators into a classic British comedy duo. Alcock tries to keep the pair on the straight and narrow, focusing on the historical facts, claiming that the events on their own are entertaining enough. Brown, on the other hand, wants to make the events as exciting as they possibly can be.This show has a fun idea but is underwhelming. All of the punchlines are predictable. Although the relationship between the aviators is well done, the pace of their delivery gets tedious and the obviousness grates like sandpaper. There is a particularly low ebb when the pair crash land in Ireland and you just knew that the heavily accented Cork man was going to show up to be shocked and amazed.There is a lot of potential here, demonstrated particularly during the scenes of the flight, in which a biplane is constructed on stage. Here all of the actors’ movements are clever and well-thought-through. Unfortunately, although it is a decent way to spend an hour and a bit, the show seems just to go through the motions. At one point Brown shouts ‘Nobody knows, nobody cares!’ I’m not sure this play is going to change that.

The Blurb

Chocks away! For the hilarious, heart-stopping story of Alcock and Brown and the first ever non-stop transatlantic flight. ‘Wonderfully entertaining - has the makings of a West End hit’ **** (Times). ‘Comic tour-de-force’ (British Theatre Guide).