With new commission Aviatrix launching to a packed house last night and looking forward to a week-long run at Kardomah94, we asked Ensemble 52 director Andrew Pearson about the process and challenges in devising such a diverse, contemporary piece –
When we were asked to create a piece for the Festival we felt that whatever we created, it had to utilise Amy Johnson’s achievements to shine a light on issues that exist today.
We talked at length about the role of women in engineering and the idea of repair (which she continually had to do on her trips), but the area we settled on was the idea of freedom of movement. We wanted to highlight the fact that Johnson was able to fly across the Middle East, frequently crash landing and getting people to help her repair the plane without any common language, and it was this universal benevolence that enabled her to fly from London to Australia, a feat you simply wouldn’t be able to replicate these days because of security restrictions.
I knew of Olivia Furber’s work with her company IVO and her connections to artists from Iran and Palestine, so it was great that she agreed to lead the project and create what is a fiercely contemporary look at the subject matter.
The structure of the show came about through an ironic series of events. We’d engaged the Paris based experimental group 9T Antiope to create and perform the score live, but their visas were denied and they couldn’t travel to the UK. Also Ramzi, who was working on the script, had his passport confiscated in Tunisia so he too couldn’t be there. Amy Johnson obviously couldn’t be there either, so we started with a show where none of the people featured in the show could attend.
As a result – with the help of amazing video designer Hannah Mason – the performers became virtual storytellers, locked in a limbo-like environment ‘for the safety of the audience’.
At a time when many nations are retrenching into nationalistic isolationism, we wanted Aviatrix to capture the need for better communication globally and shows us that the ties that bind us together as a race are stronger than those which divide.
Tickets available through http://tinyurl.com/amyjohnsonfestival