Theatre Review - Grounded

After a successful run at the Edinburgh Festival, Fringe First winner Grounded opens the Gate’s new season, ‘These American Lives’. In this engaging one-hour monologue, Lucy Ellinson plays an US fighter pilot, hard, lean, attractive, who is grounded after becoming pregnant and taking maternity leave. On her return to work , she’s not allowed back into the sky but is asked to relocate to Las Vegas – with her husband and daughter – where she works twelve-hour shifts in a trailer in the desert controlling drones.

Used to soaring through ‘the blue’, in a plane, the pilot at first finds it hard to adjust to working with a remotely controlled, unmanned aerial vehicle. Having to stare at a grey screen all day, searching for terrorists, begins to do her head in. And there are no fellow pilots she can unwind with after a mission. Then she has her first ‘hit’, blowing up a ‘guilty’ party thousands of miles away in another desert and she’s hooked on the adrenaline rush it provokes.

Increasingly, however, the pilot is disturbed by her sense of omnipotence; at being ‘the eye in the sky’, a ‘drone-god’, forever watching others, annihilating them with the press of a button. Not surprisingly, she becomes tetchy, unreasonable and her home life suffers. Then, frighteningly, the lines between reality and fantasy begin to blur with devastating consequences.

A versatile, talented actress Ellison has become a regular at the Gate. It’s not hard to see why directors love her. She’s demonstrably committed to her roles, dynamic, immensely watchable and always utterly believable. George Brant’s script is beautifully crafted and well-paced. The action is played out on a tiny square stage, encased by Oliver Townsend’s gauze screen and atmospherically lit by Mark Howland. Sensitively directed by Christopher Haydon this 5 star production should not be missed.

Running at the Gate Theatre until 28 September

Originally published by Theatreworld