City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Grounded Review

By Kenneth Scott - Posted on 20 August 2013

Grounded - production shot
Show details
Traverse Theatre
Gate Theatre, London
Running time: 
George Brant (writer), Christopher Haydon (director), Oliver Townsend (designer), Mark Howland (lighting designer), Tom Gibbons (sound designer).
Lucy Ellinson (The Pilot).

"If you let nice-to-do things take priority over have-to-do things, you are guilty of misprioritization and you jeopardize yourself and those around you" - extract from Multi-Command Handbook - F16.

The elite F16 pilot standing before us knows what it's nice to do - to have a mission, the speed, the danger, the blue, fire missiles - boom - and move on.

After she finds herself pregnant and grounded, her return to work will be to the Chair Force. What she will have to do is fly a Reaper drone aircraft from an air-conditioned trailer stuck firmly on the ground near Las Vegas. What she will have to do is go home every evening to her husband and child and try to balance the whole thing so that no one get hurt. Or at least only the guilty, viewed in grim grey through the circling overhead cameras.

Everything will be done at a remove. Her base an hour's drive over the desert, the press of the trigger with a 1.2 second delay, the battlefield 12 hours ahead, safe from the threat of death. Removed from the blue. The only thing close to her is her husband and child, part of their daily routine of meals and TV and bedtime. And dreams of the blue.

But what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas and she finds it increasingly difficult to decompress, to prioritise, to stop bringing her job home and ultimately the image of her daughter to work.

This award winning work plunges the audience into a world where "everything is witnessed", becoming the pilot's confidante as she stands, distanced and captured in a grey translucent box.

This set works with the text in so many ways and, in conjunction with flawless lighting and sound design, it's difficult to imagine this play being produced in any other way.

The staccato language is as concise and clear as radio signals but cleverly still manages to soar. Beneath the themes of war, psychological distancing, surveillance, motherhood and culpability there is a look at what it means to lose the thing fought for most.

It's powerful stuff; unique, beautifully written, perfectly realised and electrifyingly performed.

Show times

1 to 25 (not 5, 12, 19) August 2013, times vary.

Ticket prices

£12 (£6) to £19 £(14).