JUTE Theatre Company‘s aptly-titled Higher Faster Louder took audiences to new heights this past week, depicting the trailblazing life of Marilyn Marsh-Booth, one of the world’s first female commercial pilots, as she tackled the various hurdles facing young women seeking careers in a post-war world.
An alumna of JUTE’s Write Sparks program, playwright Marilyn wrote Higher Faster Louder, formerly titled Cloud Song, in 2020 and then developed it through JUTE’s writer-in-residence creative development program over three years.
The result was a fast-paced and furiously funny play which depicted the gender barriers faced by its heroine and elicited groans from the audience at particularly egregious examples of sexism in the 1960s, including handsy male pilots and blatant glass ceilings.
JUTE assembled an experienced and talented cast of four for the production, including Julia Allman in a vivacious performance as ‘Young Marilyn’ leaving Yorkshire to pursue her dreams of becoming a pilot.
Elizabeth Slattery and Kyle Walmsley each played multiple characters, seamlessly switching from Marilyn’s doubting but loving parents to the various people who populated – and sometimes hindered – Marilyn’s quest to pilot a plane.
JUTE artistic director and CEO Suellen Maunder prowled the stage, visible only to the audience, as the embodiment of present-day Marilyn looking back on her lived experience and whispering encouragement in the ear of her younger self.
At one point Maunder-as-Marilyn, in response to a male character’s request that Young Marilyn be less noisy, stormed downstage to the production’s sole microphone and declared, “Noisy girls change the world,” to whoops and tumultuous applause from the audience.
Elizabeth Slattery, Suellen Maunder, Kyle Walmsley, and Julia Allman in ‘Higher Faster Louder’
The creative team led by playwright Marilyn Marsh-Booth, dramaturg Kathryn Ash and director Matt Scholten included Sam Gibb as production manager and lighting designer, Peter Keavy on sets, props and costume design, Russell Milledge as projection designer, and Wil Hughes as composer and sound designer.
It was a dynamic production, combining digital projections, lighting, and set manipulation that turned Marilyn’s childhood home into an aeroplane and a flight simulator and back again with ease. From a creative as well as a technical standpoint, this presented as simply superb.
As part of JUTE’s ongoing commitment to training and engaging with young regional artists, Higher Faster Louder also supported two emerging theatre-makers, 18-year-old Adria Cunningham as director’s intern and 19-year-old Brennan Ridge as sound design intern.
The play ran from Friday 25 August to Saturday 2 September, hosting over 100 school students during its run and delighting audiences each time.
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