Rarely will you see such a powerful script acted by such a powerful actor.
For 75 minutes Libby Munro mesmerised the audience with a one-woman performance that made the audience chuckle, sympathise, admire, and finally weep for her. She played The Pilot, who opened the show as a highflying American fighter pilot who flew lethal sorties in Iraq and Afghanistan, (“same fight, different desert”). She fired off rockets and bombs willy-nilly at enemy targets far below, but, as she says, she is long gone before the boom-booms happen. She is a celebrity too, being the only female pilot in the squadron. It’s a gung-ho life, flying high, solo, into her “blue” as she terms the endless open sky and then, adrenalin flowing comes down slowly drinking beer and yarning with her male mates. She is a highly sexed woman too, finding the kicks where she wants and when she wants. And it takes a special type of man to win her.
Anyone who wants to chat her up in bar has to pass through a phalanx of tough fellow fighter pilots just to get to meet her. Then she meets Eric – a man who walked through the crowd to find her. Eric is different and after a hectic week of frantic love making she said that for the first time in her career she didn’t want to go back to her squadron. Our pilot had fallen in love. Then during a flight she almost throws up and yes, she is pregnant. She tells Eric, who, being the warm, supporting guy he is weeps with joy and they get married. Baby Samantha is born and for a while life is sweet. The Pilot yearns for her “blue” and finally succumbs with Eric’s blessing.
Excitedly she reports for duty, only to be told that her plane – Tiger she called it – has gone, it is obsolete, and the wars are being fought with pilotless drones – the reapers. Now the high flyers have been grounded. Instead of being airborne our Pilot is now chairborne. She is moved to a desert base in Nevada just outside Las Vegas. The family go with her and now she is home every night to her husband and daughter. Instead of flying into the blue she flies drones from a computer screen for 12 hour a day. Same war, different desert!
Once she starts this soulless job, she begins to suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and it heartbreaking to watch her slowly disintegrate from the adrenalin pumped pilot in love with life and her job to an insecure shadow of the woman she was. It hurt to see her brash confidence shattered and be afraid for herself, her family, and her daughter as memories of the slaughter she has inflicted on people via her computer come to haunt her.
It is in the transformation that Libby Munro excels. She knows her character, loves her character and with a flick of the wrist, a smile, a frown or a blazing cry or joyous laughter she slowly wrings the changes. She never recites the lines of the brilliant script she has learned but speaks them from the heart. She performed at times like a star pop singer. In the intimate space of the Diane Cilento Studio she made eye contact with the audience in such a personal way; it was like she was speaking to you and you alone. That is a rare quality. She was a great compliment to Andrea Moor’s skilful direction.
Georgina Greenhill’s set was a simple thrust with a background that could have been camouflage or clouds. It was simple but effective and with Ben Hughes’ lighting design and a marvellous soundtrack created by Tony Brumpton, made the atmosphere crackle or sigh.
The show was such a success that an extra week of shows has been scheduled. This is fine accolade to an actor who is destined to become a star.
Company: Queensland Theatre Company
Venue: Diane Cilento Studio, The Green House, South Brisbane
Season: 29 July – 22 August 2015
For more of Eric Scott’s writings on theatre, check out Absolute Theatre
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television