Flight Memory

PREMIERE SEASON: November 2019



Director: Caroline Stacey
Composer and Music Director: Sandra France
Librettist: Alana Valentine
Set and Costume Design: Imogen Keen
Lighting Design: Nik Pajanti
Sound Design: Kimmo Vennonen

Vocalists: Liam Budge, Leisa Keen, Michelle Nicolle
Bass: Brendan Clarke
Woodwinds: Tom Fell
Drums: Gary France
Keyboards: Sandra France
Guitar: Jess Green
Trumpet: Ben Marston


Flight Memory is a truly brilliant work, which offers outstanding innovation.  It is highly intellectual and thoroughly captivating. It surely must tour widely – Limelight Magazine

The driving force of the piece is Sandra France’s music, moody, grand and moving, with many influences but especially the freedom afforded by jazz – Canberra Times 

 It’s rare to hear a show of such ingenious music – Canberra City News

Alana Valentine’s libretto is intelligent, witty, and at times laugh-out-loud, but from its very opening moments when Leisa Keen’s air hostess instructs the audience in flight protocol, it engages the audience’s curiosity and emotions – Australian Arts Review

Directing with her usual panache, Caroline Stacey, took full advantage of Imogen Keen’s abstract shiny metal geometric setting, suggestive perhaps of the approach to an airfield, or the inside of an aircraft cockpit, and the brilliantly atmospheric lighting of Niklas Pajanti, to create a continual stream of eye-pleasing stage pictures Australian Arts Review

It was obvious that librettist, Alana Valentine, and composer, Sandra France, worked closely, for the results speak for themselves. The libretto and spoken narration went hand-in-hand with the music so perfectly, one could not imagine one without the other – Limelight Magazine 

Who would have thought that a jazz song cycle inspired by the invention of the Black Box Flight Recorder would have made for an evening of absorbing theatre – not only absorbing, but thrilling?  – Australian Arts Review

“Flight Memory” is a bold and dynamic work. The original music came across almost as a new genre, such was the inventiveness of all the compositions. Perhaps it could be called Progressive Jazz.’ – Canberra City News

The song Crystal Set beautifully evokes the eerie, nostalgic crackles and whines of tuning an early radio. Like many of the songs, it’s suffused with sadness: in this case, the radio in question was a gift to Warren by his father soon before his father died in plane crash into the Tasman Sea. Fatal Fog and Voices of the Dead are deeply sad, full of ghostly echoes – Stage Whispers

‘An inventive jazz narrative to remember’ Canberra City News

Based on a biography of David Warren, the Australian inventor of the black box, Flight Memory is a tale of sadness, persistence, guts, loss and triumph, underpinned by that poignancy –  Stage Whispers

Flight Memory is a stunning achievement, highlighting an important scientific achievement in an unusual but highly effective stage presentation – Australian Arts Review


A suite of songs inspired by the mechanics of invention, the pain of parochialism, the unconscious grind of childhood grief and the elation of hard-won success. Flight Memory is a work of contemporary song, weaving innovation and improvisation with sassy jazz fusion to meditate on the journey of David Warren, inventor of the now ubiquitous black box aircraft flight recorder. Both cleverly narrative and ultimately impressionistic, this is a contemporary vocal performance featuring ten original songs.

Enter the mind of a creative genius, into the shock of a world in mourning. Delving into the responsibility of those who, even today, must listen to the recorded voices of the dead in order to prevent future tragedies. Part requiem, part cheeky finger in the air to our relentless cultural cringe. This is a work which will transport its audience into the mystery of human endeavour, the beauty of the voice and a celebration of original Australian cultural expression.

Commissioned by The Street Theatre, this remarkable new work pairs ARIA-nominated composer Sandra France (From a Black Sky) with Helpmann-Award winning playwright and librettist Alana Valentine (Barbara and the Camp Dogs, Cold Light, MP) and delivers songs of emotional resonance and engaging intellectual conjecture. The combination of an experienced dramatist with a profoundly lyrical and passionate composer has resulted in a work of heart, head and humour that will genuinely engage your senses.