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Theatre Preview: Amy Johnson: Last Flight Out

Amy Johnson: Last Flight Out, a one-woman show celebrating the life of the pilot and her record-breaking solo flight from England to Australia in 1930, touches down at the Old Electric on Friday.

Written and performed by Jenny Lockyer, Last Flight Out tells the story of Johnson’s passion for adventure and love of aviation.

The show was originally created for the 2017 Croydonites Festival of New Theatre and has since played a string of sold-out runs in Croydon and toured key venues from Brooklands Museum to Herne Bay.

Professor Dawn Bonfield at The Royal Academy of Engineering described the show as a
“one-woman masterpiece” and said, “It’s a celebration of the amazing achievement of Amy Johnson, but also an inspiration to anybody who has ever had a dream”.

Lockyer was inspired to tell the story of how, on the 5th May, 1930, a small green Gipsy Moth aeroplane called ‘Jason’ took off from Croydon Airport. It was to be a record-breaking solo flight to Australia that would capture the imagination of the world and make an international superstar of ground engineer and pilot, Amy Johnson.

We meet Johnson in a world of mixed memories, desires, and ambitions. She described herself as “a normal woman who has achieved extraordinary things”. Born in 1903, the year the Wright Brothers made their first flight, Johnson grew up in an age in which the romantic heights of flying would capture her heart. She lived for adventure and the future of aviation.

In January 1941, at just 37 years old, Johnson was killed while serving her country on a routine flight for the Air Transport Auxiliary, bailing out over the Thames Estuary at Herne Bay. In her short life she achieved many great things and this ‘lone girl flier’ achieved them while faced with challenges of all kinds. As we find out about her life, we start to see how the pieces fit, and the tools she used to bring her dreams to reality.

Johnson in Melbourne in June 1930 (Creative Commons)

Lockyer has designed and led a host of educational workshops for younger audiences celebrating Johnson’s legacy.

“It’s been almost a hundred years since that incredible flight, and Amy’s story is still as relevant and exciting as ever,” she said. “I wanted to show how despite facing huge challenges not only from her epic journey to Australia but from the depths of her own mind and emotions, Amy found it in herself to face those challenges head on, channel her energies and just keep going.”

Finding ways to portray on stage the dialogue Johnson had with herself was the initial challenge, Lockyer added, “but in deciding to take on the abstract role of her plane, Jason, and play things out through the eyes of aspiration, the story opened itself up to me in ways that didn’t echo a traditional chronological biography.

“Desires, ambitions, fear and grief, mix together in this show, questioning what makes any one of us do the things we are inspired to do. And understanding how we can bring our ideas to reality is not just the basics of engineering but inspires all kinds of other decisions in our lives. My aim is to explore with audiences how Amy had a dream and made it happen.”

You can see Amy Johnson: Last Flight Out written and performed by Jenny Lockyer, and directed by Vern Griffiths on 15th March at Old Electric Theatre, Blackpool at 7pm, followed by a post show Q&A. Book here.

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