Sunday 19 November 2017

Review: Grounded is a searing reflection on the effects of warfare

Clare Dunne in 'Grounded'
Clare Dunne in 'Grounded'

Nobody wants to land a job in the "chair force". Out up in the blue - now that's where our nameless F16 fighter pilot belongs. It's where she feels most alive. Until she meets Eric.

Eric changes everything. 'The Pilot' digs Eric. Things are working out pretty well for the pilot. But then, the pilot is pregnant, and pregnant pilots are grounded.

Later, after the birth of Sam, after she marries Eric - after she realises how happy she is to have both - the pilot returns to work.

The dreaded chair force is her gig now, flying remote-controlled drones over the Middle East, tracking terrorists from a cosy army base in Nevada.

Twelve-hour shifts in front of a monitor, swapping the big, bright blue for the hazy, monotonous grey. Screen, home, family, bed, repeat. This is life now. The physical risk has been removed; in its place, something far more sinister. Reality bends; the pilot loses grip. Blowing people up between coffee breaks will do that.

Grounded - an engrossing, often searing piece of work - boasts the Big Three.

One: its playwright, George Brant, has crafted a magnetic monologue that, though a tad repetitive, keeps matters tight and personal. There are no heavy political lectures; this is how modern warfare affects this one pilot - simple.

Two: Siren Productions, along with director Selina Cartmell and set designer Joe Vanek, have assembled a wonderful playground set on which their lone performer excels.

Splitting the audience in two, the stage is, effectively, a runway, complete with more than a dozen chairs that will help actress Clare Dunne to (literally) climb aboard Brant's metaphors.

Three: the mesmerising Clare Dunne as the pilot. Dunne turns in a hard-nosed and emotionally-charged portrayal of a macho pilot whose mind cracks under surreal levels of pressure.

It's a commanding performance. Grounded may be a team effort, but it's also one-woman theatre at its best.


Ends Saturday. HHHHI

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