A surreal and anticipated atmosphere awaits the audience with the playing of eclectic range of rock music and the character, The Pilot, unemotionally waits in a screened in box to tell her story. George Brant’s Grounded, an award winning one-woman play, is about a woman’s high flying career as a fighter pilot. Her career path changes when she became a mother; she no longer flies planes from the flight deck, but instead flies remote control drones over the Middle East in Las Vegas.
Performed by Lucy Ellinson, it seems The Pilot certainly feels more at ease in the sky than on the ground with her insistence of wearing her pilot uniform and her single mindedness to continue succeeding secularly. Her struggles are discreetly analysed from her long shifts flying remote controlled drones and juggles this with her family life. Her infallibility throughout the play sticks strongly until it is too late for her to realise what really matters to her such as family and ultimately her freedom.
Nothing is said or done delicately; incorporating the use of strong language and heavy handedness to the tasks she determinedly sets out to do. One however can identify The Pilot’s vulnerability in the play’s latter stages concerning her family even if she dismissed help from Air Force counselling as suggested by her husband.
Oliver Townsend’s staging with its screened box metaphorically gives one an appreciation how distant and restrictive The Pilot is, physically and emotionally. The lighting resembles no softness; instead there is this atmospheric necessity of urgency, intensity and drama as reflected in the use of colours. Both Mark Howland’s lighting and Tom Gibbons’ sound simultaneously dramatises the character’s story and extra sounds grips the play with changed circumstances.
Gate Theatre’s Grounded, receiving its UK premiere, explores a woman’s role in society especially when one combines a secular career and raising a family. There are broader issues from the play to consider, such as warfare and terrorism which are very much relevant today. Lucy Ellinson’s animated, passionate and articulated story telling in this enjoyable play encourages one to think provokingly.