The Jermyn Street Theatre continues its Footprints Festival with Lucy Betts’ acclaimed production of Ade Morris’s Lone Flyer, which was first staged at The Watermill Theatre last October.
informative storyline, solid performances and imaginative staging
Hannah Edwards gives a confident, and cheekily endearing performance as she relates the life of pioneer aviatrix Amy Johnson, the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia. The various jobs she had as she tried to pursue her ambition and the relationships that influenced her life, be they with her father, her various employers, her instructors, admirers, lovers and her husband, loom large as she navigates her way through opportunities and setbacks. With great versatility Benedict Salter takes on all the other parts displaying his ability to create an array of characters through voice and demeanour and also to hauntingly play the cello, not only to repeat the tune of the play's adopted song but also to give sound effects for the planes.
Both actors are aided considerably by Isobel Nicolson’s set design and costumes by Emily Barratt. The set is created by use of a large number of period suitcases, in various colours and sizes, some closed to provide levels for walking up and down and sitting on, others open to contain various costumes and props, of which there are many. Johnson’s classic aviator hat and her leather and sheepskin jacket are donned for numerous flights, but she has an array of other costumes that denote various social settings. Salter similarly has an outfit for every character and the stage design allows this substantial wardrobe to be discreetly contained within it.
A major feature of the set is a large trolley that forms the plane and is swirled around in various scenes to give the effect of flight and turbulence. Impressive sound design by Jamie Kubisch Wiles and Thom Townsend and lighting by Harry Armytage contribute enormously to the changing settings, events and moods in the play. Each of these creatives, along with choreographer Hannah Edwards, has done a finely tuned job and their individual efforts blend harmoniously and supportively together.
Director Lucy Betts has given pace to the production by wasting no time in seamlessly transitioning from one scene to the next, with dialogue or narrative continuing through changes of costume and location. She has valiantly tried to bring coherence to a script that makes many jumps and crucially fails to bring clarity as to which of Johnson's various flights is being portrayed at any given time.
An informative storyline, solid performances and imaginative staging make for delightful, if not earth-shattering, entertainment.