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Marie Marvingt was a real woman and a really inspirational one at that, being the first female aviator and combat pilot to fly in WW1, amongst many other sporting achievements. In broken spectacles solo rendering of her life, she was also a forgiving romantic, falling in love with a buck-tooth Brazilian-come-Yorkshire man (because the Yorkshire accent is easier) and confiding in her very French pigeon friend Pierre.
Clearly, some poetic licence has occurred and thank goodness, because Marie’s peregrinations are wonderfully imagined with a healthy dose of audience participation. Somebody has to make Pierre fly after all, which an obliging spectator and an antique fishing rod make possible. This is so he can deliver urgently surreal messages and the cooing cue for his entrance harks back to the dove from above and the masters of the absurd, Reeves and Mortimer.
Following Marie on her peregrinations is like stumbling into the best of nurseries where the play follows its own logic and the tangents we are led down are as delightful as her genuine life story. Aldrich is a delicately elegant mover, propelling herself between the tomboyish Marie and her gawky lover in the confines of a single engine plane. Whilst the portrayed romance between Marie and her flying tutor Santos-Dumont provides much entertainment, as a love story Head in the Clouds lacks some gravity. It is rather Aldrich’s enjoyment of embodying the characters and the silliness that spills out which make this show moorish. Seeing Marie transformed into a man via one of those knitted beard hats is an image that will tickle me for the rest of the fest.
This is a charming piece of physical storytelling which children will love, the modest amount of references to male genitalia aside. We are gently urged at the end of the piece to verify Marie Marvingt and her incredible achievements on Wikipedia. Personally, I prefer the company’s version of events.