Grounded, David Sedley, Tent of Xerxes

June 12, 2015 by

George Brant’s Grounded was the winner of The Scotsman Fringe First Award 2013. The paper’s review called the play “an essential story for our times” and a “heartbreaking, beautiful, necessary and perfectly structured solo drama”.

So, what’s so essential about it? Well, the story concerns a working mother, with all the issues that go with our perceptions of the traditional roles of women, and the balancing acts required by so many who must also hold down full time jobs. It’s therefore about the psychology of inhabiting two mutually exclusive worlds – the ‘norm’ of familial duty and love, and the material duty thrust upon us by the obligation to feed and shelter our loved ones. Except, duty for our character is as literal in her workplace as at home, for she is no less than a pilot in the US Airforce. Sworn to defend her country and its values, she is as gungho as any of her male colleagues, and just as accomplished, having earned her reputation as a ‘Top Gun’.

Over time, however, biology intervenes in her career plans – as it still does to the unacceptable detriment of so many women the progressive world over – when she becomes pregnant and is grounded from all flying operations. Reassigned therefore to operate drones from a trailer in the Nevada Desert, she finds herself unhappily the member of the ‘Chair Force’, attacking her country’s enemies not from the cockpit of an F16 but from the comfort of an office chair. Motherhood, job satisfaction, drones, and current politics, are, therefore, the strange bedfellows.

The Scotsman called the ‘essential story for our times’. Whatever your personal take on its themes, however, the play is indisputably important, as it has been also the recipient of The Smith Prize 2012, the Off-West End Theatre Awards Best Production 2013 and the Theatre Netto Festival Prize winner 2015. Recognised as a superbly written and powerfully crafted piece – and one demanding much of the actor – Grounded comes to Swansea’s Grand Theatre Arts Wing Tuesday June 16 and Wednesday June 17.

Produced by Tent of Xerxes, the play is directed by Mercury Theatre Wales’ Lynn Hunter, and stars West Glamorgan Youth Theatre, and Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, alumna Alice White, pictured, as the unnamed pilot trying to cope with the dichotomy of killing terrorists in her day job, and being a loving mother and wife in a parallel post work reality. And, as the pressure mounts on her to track a high level terrorist from her eye in the sky, we begin to realise that the watcher herself is being watched.



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