BBC Radio 4, 19 June 2012
Johnnie (Jack Klaff) returns to Cape Town to record his latest
radio play, after having spent many years away from his homeland in London. He re-encounters Vicki (Alice Krige), who is starring
in the play, and with whom he had a passionate affair many years ago. He was 22; she was 30; they were madly in love
with each other until the relationship ended in bitter recrimination. Now they are brought together once more, they contemplate
the past while considering what they have made of themselves since then.
Flying Backwards uses the radio drama plot line to contrast the differences
between fiction and life: a play has a beginning, middle and an end, in which complications are resolved and the characters
- for the most part - manage to make sense of their relationships to one another. Real life is not so easy to define: while
Johnnie and Vicki are undoubtedly glad to re-encounter one another after so many years, the past keeps impacting on their
present. Neither of them can forget what happened.
Author Klaff draws a parallel between his protagonists' relationship and the state
of contemporary South Africa. In the post-apartheid era, people of different races can freely associate with one another without
fear of censure; however, the experience of apartheid still determines their reactions. Johnnie's mother (Doreen Mantle) is
a living example of this; try as she might, she could never adjust to her son's relationship with Vicki, chiefly because Vicki
freely associated with black people. Vicki herself has a complex reaction to members of other races - although she lives with
a black person, she still harbours racist feelings.
The title Flying Backwards expresses Klaff's concerns: normally it is only
humming-birds in cartoons who are seen to fly backwards, but in contemporary South Africa everyone - regardless of age or
ethnic origin - is always flying backwards to the past, and trying to understand how it affects their present and future.
David Ian Neville's production offered no pat solutions, but it nonetheless examined
the complexities of living in a country still plagued by its dark past.