Grounded was written by George Brant as a one-woman show. Telling in monologue the tale of a female fighter pilot removed from her solitary blue skies to the grey of the ‘chair force’. This is a meaty role, recently performed by Anne Hathaway in New York who pursued the role after reading a review of a previous production.
This production by Deafinitely Theatre casts two actresses in the role of the unnamed pilot, telling the story through British Sign Language, projected and spoken words. Deafinitely is the only professional deaf-led theatre company in the UK that works bilingually in British Sign Language and spoken English.
A woman who is successful in a man’s world, and enjoys a beer with her ‘boys’ after a successful flight finally meets a guy who treats her “like the hero I am”. Her subsequent pregnancy forces her to leave her beloved career for a desk job. On her return from maternity leave, now with husband and daughter in tow, she learns that the world of war has moved on and she is transferred to a windowless office in Nevada to stare at images filmed by a drone high above a desert twelve hours ahead of the one she sits in.
We watch this woman cope with huge changes in her life; coming home from war every night instead of every few months and the impact this has on her family’s life and her own mental health. She takes her child to nursery; drives through the desert to the base; spends her day waiting to drop bombs on the ‘guilty’, then drives home for dinner with her husband.
The two actresses work wonderfully in tandem to tell this gripping tale. Nadia Nadarajah is excellent as The Pilot; her expressive face, wicked grin and physicality make it hard to take your eyes off her. Charmaine Wombwell is cast as the Voice of the Pilot but she is so much more than the voiceover, mirroring the movements of her co-star and speaking the poetic words as Nadia signs.
The set is simple and does not distract from the performers; the screen behind switches from Pilot’s beloved blue to the grey images from the drone’s camera. Both actors are dressed in the flight suit Pilot feels represents her status; Nadia’s has the badges of honour while Charmaine’s is plain.
This is a well written play performed in an interesting way. It kept me thinking long after I’d left the theatre. Pilot wonders if she can really be fighting a war when her risk of death has been taken away yet we can see that the psychological side-effects remain.
Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans
Photo: Marc Brenner
Grounded is playing until 21 November 2015 at the Park Theatre. Click here for tickets