Jericho Arts Centre and Mentors' Project

The American Pilot
By David Greig

Date 12 October - 3 November 2007 Venue Jericho Arts Centre
Reviewer Jane Penistan

This beautifully written play is about the clash of cultures and the difficulties of understanding perceptions of different nationalities and, more closely, of ones neighbours. There is also the difficulty of language here, and this leads to some humourous episodes.

An American pilot (Arpad Barough) crashes in a remote mountainous country, engaged in civil war.Injured and sick the pilot is found by a local farmer (Dave Campbell) who carries him to his barn and does his best to care for him. His wife Sarah (Cara McDowell) and daughter Evie (Miaja Tailfeathers) nurse and feed the pilot. A hard-bitten trader and local councillor (Tariq Leslie) sees an opportunity for a sharp deal with the country’s government for the pilot’s body.

The Captain (Murray Price), the district’s local government authority, arrives to find himself unable to decide what is the best course to follow. Whom should he inform of the pilot’s presence or should he not pass on information? Should he kill him? As an ex-service man he has sympathy with the pilot and longs for the camaraderie which exists between armed forces men. But they are not on the same side. The captain’s government accepts money from the Americans. He himself was punished for his part in a past uprising against the country’s regime and still longs for a future of peace with a tolerant and nonbelligerent party in power.

The Captain’s translator (Victor Vasuta) is not very competent, but he is a gentle, sensitive being who is much more aware of the way of the world outside the small country in which they are all presently captive.

Evie, inevitably, is attracted to the pilot and in spite of language difficulties, the two manage to enjoy a little lighthearted communication. Evie stands up to the men who hurt the wounded pilot, accusing them of cruelty and unnecessary harshness. Her kindly father arranges for the escape of the pilot from the local authority, who fear the reprisals of the government or of the Americans, if the man is found alive.

This play about how the Americans are perceived and judged by the somewhat isolated villagers and what the Americans think and do to the bewildered bucolic neighbours in the village. The age old tradition of kindness to strangers and family concerns for the children’s future persist in the face of the totalitarian government. In the end, as in all wars, it is only the kind and practical mother who survives alone, after the violence and slaughter of the men and the rescue of the young into the hope for a happier future.

John Taylor has given the cast an admirable rural set and Christine Quintana has dressed the cast tastefully and appropriately. Murray Price’s music is delightful and enhances the production with its singing and dance airs, and the sounds from the pilot’s ipod. Kyla Gardiner keeps the light changing with the scenes to accentuate the time of day or night.

Above all Adam Henderson has directed this drama with unerring intelligence, sensitivity, and artistic vision.

© 2007 Jane Penistan