Writer: Ade Morris
Director: Lucy Betts
Amy Johnson’s life has been the subject of a number of treatments through various mediums, namely biographies, film and television. Born and bred in Hull the Queen of Aviation’s story is one of courage and bravery. Here, we see that story played out on stage in a light but heart-warming play presented by Watermill Theatre in collaboration with Hull Truck. Though not solely a Hull Truck production per se, one can’t help but mention the authenticity of the piece; a Hull actor playing the titular character – the right choice and one we need to see more of at Truck. The hull accent is unique. Not to be confused with the generic Northern tones of Leeds and Manchester. It’s a rare skill to master and one only a true Hullian can convey.
Louise Willoughby is excellent in her portrayal. Though small in stature she shows the strength and determination of Amy, gracing the part with just the right amount of grit and quintessential gusto. A real force of nature. Casual, and with hands in pockets, her appearance is warm, a real magnetic presence; determined and affecting. The audience are drawn into her lived experiences like a (Gipsy) moth to the flame. “Amy Johnson doesn’t land, she arrives”. Just like Amy, Louise is clearly devoted to her craft. She is almost dream-like and her performance is both stellar and polished.
The same can be said for her co-player Benedict Salter who, in this simply staged two-hander is the perfect partner for Amy playing no less than 16 roles in various guises. Not only is he an accomplished and understated actor he is also a brilliant cellist. The strings (played live onstage) are impactful and affective adding haunting undertones to Ade Morris’ sensitive script writing. The two players complement each other beautifully in this glorious story of hope and strength which is cleverly staged with much sincerity by its director, Lucy Betts.
This historically accurate retelling of the original high-flyer demonstrates that anything is possible with the right amount of perseverance and resilience. The work is truly inspiring. For those who are perhaps not au fait with Amy’s story, this illuminative piece is as informative as it is entertaining. The inviting and exciting gem of a play is a real joy from start to finish. Fly high Amy the female pilot: “one of the first and one of the best”.
Runs until 30th October 2021