Lone Flyer is a two-man/woman play all about the life of Hull’s famous pilot Amy Johnson. Amy is played by local born actress Louise Willoughby and everyone else (Amy’s father, her first love, her husband, her engineer friend, and even her best friend Winifred) is played by the very versatile Benedict Salter.
Amy Johnson, born in Hull in 1903, became an international star when she became the first woman to fly solo to Australia in 1930. She completed many more record breaking flights alone and with her husband, Jim, also a pilot, but it’s her story of personal resilience and her reluctance to be stuck in a ‘more appropriate’ job for a lady that resonated.
The play is grim in parts. It flits between the sheer horror of Amy’s very last flight and sections of her life, like it is literally and figuratively flashing before her eyes. We are told more about Amy’s childhood in Hull with her father and her ill-fated sister Irene, and her school and university days. We meet her first boyfriend and also her husband Jim, as well as the engineer who helped her halfway around the world.
As a child friendly piece, while it’s not aimed at children, it’s not wholly unsuitable. There is one swear word, a short part with cigarettes, and a couple of not at all obvious references to sexy time. If your children are interested in flying, adventure, or just learning more about a local heroine, then there’s not much to be offended by. It does get scary in places where Amy is (rightly) fearing for her life and children may not appreciate the more nuanced humour, but it’s mostly pleasant and entertaining.
Full credit to both the actors – Louise Willoughby for demonstrating all aspects of a complex human being in both fun and distress, and to Benedict Salter for playing a multitude of diverse characters (almost) faultlessly. As a two-person cast, both actors were on stage pretty much the entire time and there was a lot of dialogue, prop changes, and costume changes going on. Amazing.
Well recommended for anyone interested in Amy Johnson, aviation, and adventure. Or just because you want to get out and see something! Do not underestimate the joy in what a theatre trip can bring after the best part of two years.
Lone Flyer is running at Hull Truck Theatre until 30th October 2021
If you’re looking for more Amy related days out, her plane Jason” is now on permanent display in the Flight Gallery of the Science Museum in London. The Amy Johnson Collection is housed at Sewerby Hall in Bridlington, a tourist attraction she opened to the public in 1936.
Disclosure: We were guests at Lone Flyer’s press night