Thu, 29 Oct 2020
Pamela Raith Photography
Lone Flyer – The Last Flight of Amy Johnson, at The Watermill, Bagnor, until November 21
Review by Robin Strapp
Amy Johnson was the first woman to fly solo from London to Sydney and Ade Morris’s intriguing play, The Lone Flyer – The Last Flight of Amy Johnson, retells her remarkable courageous story.
This is the second production of The Watermill’s autumn indoor season, with both the audience and the cast conforming to Covid secure social distancing.
Hannah Edwards is inspiring as the heroic, intrepid aviator whose winning smile and gritty determination wins our hearts.
Amy was a remarkable pioneering woman, who grew up in Hull watching Zeppelins flying overhead, losing her teeth playing cricket as a youngster and eventually going to Sheffield university.
After graduating, she has a series of unfulfilling jobs. She meets Franz, a feckless Swiss businessman, but has an unhappy love affair with him.
With her passion for flying and insatiable longing for adventure, she joins the London Flying Club and became the first woman to gain both an aero engineering ticket and her pilot’s licence.
Benedict Salter impressively portrays all the other roles in the play, including Amy’s loving father, her feminist best friend Winifred and fellow pilot Jim Mollison, ‘the playboy of the air’, who she sensationally marries.
Amy wants to “change the world” and her incredible achievements were honoured with a CBE. She became a famous international celebrity, but shunned publicity – “Fame is like battery acid – use it, don’t drink it” she said.
Isobel Nicholson’s imaginative set design, comprising brick walls with suitcases and trunks scattered around the stage and a revolving trolley that becomes Johnson’s Gypsy Moth plane, is striking.
It’s complemented by Harry Armytage’s lighting which places each scene in Morris’ clever use of switching the timescale between Johnson’s last flight delivering a plane to wartime Kidlington and her earlier life.
Jamie Kubisch-Wiles and Thom Townsend’s sound design enhances the atmosphere with a powerfully created soundscape.
One of Johnson’s biggest fears was going down in water – the fate she was to experience in 1941, on that final flight, aged 37, when she was overcome by bad weather and crashed into the sea.
Lucy Betts’ assured direction zings with energy, revealing the incredible achievement of this extraordinary woman. It’s slice of history, beautifully performed by a superb company.