Edinburgh: Theatre

Charlie Victor Romeo

United Airlines flight 232 is in trouble. Number two engine has failed and been shut down, and the hydraulics no longer work. The crew can only make the airplane fly to the right, and as they head towards Sioux airport in Iowa on July 19 1989, they struggle desperately to keep control of the aircraft. Even the captain admits that they have little chance of making it down, but as they hurtle towards the runway, all is strangely calm in the cockpit. Even as the plane crashes, the crew keep trying to avert the inevitable. There is something touchingly human about this doomed effort; the way they look up, not down. Mind you, it does seem to be late in the day to be looking through the instruction manual in the hope it might offer tips on how to stay airborne.

This award-winning US show is plane-crash theatre, aviation's equivalent of rubbernecking on the motorway. A huge hit in New York and with off-duty airline pilots, this slickly presented "theatrical documentary" invokes six real-life air disasters using nothing but the transcripts of the cockpit exchanges between crew and control towers in the minutes before catastrophe. The tension is so great that I was soon reduced to a little pool of sweat.

You cannot deny that it is done with simple aplomb. The stage is set with a mock cockpit, the actors climb in, and up we go - one tale of mechanical and human error after another. After a while, though, you get compassion fatigue and begin to wonder whether there is something rather ghoulish about making festival entertainment out of death. When I leave, I shall be taking the train back to London.

  1. Charlie Victor Romeo
  2. Udderbelly Cow Barn
  1. Until August 25
  2. Box office:
    0844 545 8252