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May 26, 2008 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

The American Pilot

What a fantastic production! I went into the theatre a bit agitated and restless and, to be honest, wasn’t totally convinced I really wanted to be there. I mean, the last thing anyone (especially me) really wants to see in this day and age is a story about an American prancing about and preaching his homogenous, self-serving values without abandon. Thankfully, what Circa’s New Zealand premiere production of The American Pilot offers is not at all a positive iteration of America’s global supremacy; rather, it is a striking critique of the effects which this dominance has on lands and people many miles away from the USA.

Kip Chapman plays the American Pilot, Jason Reinhardt, who has crash-landed somewhere in the hills and is being cared for/ held captive on a farm. Bruce Phillips plays a kindly yet wary farmer whose daughter Evie, played by Jodie Hillock, takes an immediate liking to the pilot. Peter Hambleton soon arrives as a gruff and cruel Captain, whose wife and daughter had been killed by Americans some years ago. Supporting characters are played by James Ashcroft, Michele Amas and Jason Whyte.

Reinhardt is something like an angel – attractive, blonde, and always glowing (a subtle effect achieved by Lisa Maule’s terrific lighting design), Reinhardt has fallen from the skies and brings with him new ways of life for the villagers, largely in the form of technology. I was for some time concerned that the play was leaning towards a pro- American message, but it soon becomes clear that this angel is no saviour. Standing in for all Americans, he ultimately brings destruction to the small village, symbolising how just the very presence of the US, even in spirit, is a dangerous and corrupting force.

The show’s design features compliment the polished script and fine performances very nicely. Lisa Maule’s lighting design is loaded with streaks of lighting eminating from both above the ceiling and below the floorboards, creating a lighting plot which really did have its own personality and character. Similarly, the sound was absorbing and at times very powerful.

Circa has proved that its recent successes have been no fluke, and continues to impress.

The American Pilot
Written by David Greig
Directed by Susan Wilson
At Circa
From May 1


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