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Spitfire Solo – 2012 Adelaide Fringe

Presented by Guy Masterson's Centre for International Theatre (C.I.T.) in association with Nicholas Collett and [email protected]
Reviewed Saturday 25th February 2012.

A former World War II Spitfire fighter pilot, Peter Walker, recalls the past and reveals the present, linking the two. Now 80 and living in the Silver Birches Retirement Home, walking with the aid of a stick, he vividly recreates for us the Battle of Britain, from his personal viewpoint in the cockpit of a Supermarine Spitfire, its Rolls Royce Merlin engine roaring as he throws the aircraft around the sky.

Nicholas Collett wrote and performs this fascinating and moving piece, under the direction of Gavin Robertson, with whom he also performs in a short repeat season of The Six-Sided Man. It has pace, nostalgia and strong emotional content, brilliantly brought to life by Collett's superb characterisation and marvellous story telling skills. The audience was rivetted.

Sitting in his armchair, with his walking cane as a joystick, he brings the Battle of Britain to life again. Sat at his table, sauce bottles and slices of bread are used to demonstrate what happened; a debriefing. These few props, minimal set, and an airman's uniform are all that Collett needs, such is the strength and of his script and the intensity of his performance. It is easy to picture yourself up there with him, flying with The Few, defending your homeland and loved ones. You feel for him, as he sees friends shot down and, when he returns to the current time you still feel his loss with him.

Collett makes it all real and there is a wonderful passage where he visits a local school to speak of his experiences. Newsreel footage takes you part way there, but hearing of a person's personal experiences goes much further. If more young people today knew at what cost their freedom to do whatever they want was bought, they would have far more respect for their elders. Hopefully, some young epeople will come to see this production and take away more than they had when they arrived.

There is more to this story, though. Nobody goes through that sort of thing unchanged and unaffected, and Collett's Peter had also suffered a personal loss; the daughter who walked out and went to Australia, never to be heard from again. He tells of his journey to Adelaide and enlisting a local private detective to find her, with no success and no hope. Collett offers a very authentic Aussie accent as he plays that character, incidentally. Peter's losses were not only his wartime buddies and flying companions, but his family as well. The after effects of an experience as traumatic as a World War can stay with you for the rest of your life. Many I know who were there, or in Korea or Vietnam, speak little of that time.

Peter is faced now with another challenge that appeared out of the blue. Only Collett can tell you that part of the story as it should be told, so get along and take a flip with him in the old crate. Chocks away chaps.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

Adelaide Fringe – Spitfire Solo
CIT Adelaide – Spitfire Solo
Higher Ground

Venue: Higher Ground, 9-15 Light Square, Adelaide
Season: To 18th March 2012
Duration: 60min
Tickets: $19 to $21
Bookings: FringeTix 1300-FRINGE (1300 374 643), FringeTix outlets, or online

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