A charming mixture of mime and music, Woman! Pilot! Pirate? is the endearing tale of Emmy, who believes that Amelia Earhart’s disappearance is nothing more than a conspiracy and therefore decides to track her down by following in her footsteps. An unfortunate incident leaves her stuck on an island, trying to survive.
A charming mixture of mime and music
Grace Lyons Hudson plays protagonist Emmy with skilled physicality. In any moment her face can be beaming with joy, or sunken with despair, seemingly changing shape before our eyes with emotion. In a mainly non-verbal role, relying heavily on mime and clowning style movements, Hudson excels.
The accompanying music is constructed in front of us using a live loop pedal, allowing fellow performer Sam Kemp to create an incredible a cappella soundscape, sometimes reminiscent of the ocean, at other times like radio static. These contemporary folk-style tunes bring warmth and humanity to the performance, which can otherwise occasionally feel detached by its strangeness.
Mostly, watching Woman! Pilot! Pirate? is a cosy experience, like a warm cup of a tea indoors on a rainy Sunday afternoon. The music and the movements work together to lull you to a peaceful place. But there’s a sharp edge hidden there too. Emmy’s descent into madness brings laughter, such as when she shoves her mouth full with pieces of dried coconut, but also poignancy, as her relationship with the voice through the radio (again played by Sam Kemp) progresses.
The direction, combined with the lighting design by Heidi Aurora, is beautiful. Pick a moment, any moment, to photograph and you’ll have gained a work of art. From swathes of red light generating the heat of the desert island to spotlights that dip in to enhance your sense of wonder, this is a very good looking show. The set is appropriately and pleasingly ramshackle and handcrafted, like a child’s homemade den.
Despite the show’s beauty, and obvious sense of heart, the story itself is very light. It might not be their intention to be plot driven, but as a whole it struggles to become more than a simple collection of moments. Whimsical, scenic moments, yes, but this playful collage is not quite enough to maintain a full hour’s interest.