‘Grounded’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by September 14, 2016

 

‘Grounded’ is a superbly constructed adult play. Packed with emotion, it was written by the Oklahoma-born playwright, George Brant. So striking and exceptional is the script, that it has been translated into 10 different languages.

This captivating, 80-minute heart-rending, enthralling Red Ryder production (Benj D’Addario) can be seen at the Blue Room Theatre, James Street – in the Northbridge Arts Complex – each evening at 7.00 (time was changed) until Saturday 1st October.

There is an AUSLAN production on 20th September.

As well as being named one of the Top 10 London Play of 2013, the ‘Scotsman’ newspaper awarded it a prestigious ‘Fringe First’. On Broadway the pilot was played by Anne Hathaway.

 

The set (consultant, Frances Danckert) is simply a two-metre square, black dais and a black leather office chair. A wisp of smoke drifts across the stage. Karen Cook’s lighting was exceptional; comprising dozens of spotlights or small floods, she picked out the areas with carefully chosen lighting angles. The subtlety continued in the soft, background music (Brett Smith) and the soundscape with its magnificent sound effects. The music complemented the highly realistic, video design (Mia Holton) depicting pictures from a plane’s computer cameras.

The stage manager, Georgia Smith was operating the consoles. There was probably around a massive 200 lighting and sound cues, most of them requiring split second timing or subtle changes, and she did not miss a single one. Superb work.

The minor scene changes just ‘happened’ in the pitch dark.

 

      A powerful fighter jet, an F16, roars low overhead. The lights rise to show a smiling pilot, proudly dressed in a sap green, American Air Force jumpsuit. In a slight neutral American accent (coach – Luzita Fereday) the aviator (Alison van Reeken) explains how she has flown numerous types of planes, risen through the ranks and is now flying the ultimate fighting machine. She is an omnipotent fighting God.

      We learn of her joy, flying through blue beyond with her teammates and their amusing camaraderie. However, shopkeeper Eric becomes the new love in her life, and gives her the only thing missing – a baby. Unfortunately, due to health and safety regulations, she can no longer fly and is grounded.

       Three years later, she calls into the office, simple routine and is to be allotted another squadron. However, fighters are now going out of fashion and she is now assigned an $11 million ‘Reaper’, a type of drone. This will mean security, regular hours, an air-conditioned office and be home safely to the family each night. What more could a pilot ask for?

 

Who in their right mind would accept a part that is 80 minutes of monologue? You would have to be mad – or exceptional. Alison is exceptional, having already won the most prestigious theatre award, Equity’s ‘Best Actor (Female) of the Year’; even so, this intense play is still the ultimate challenge. Guided by an Equity award-winning director, Emily McLean, success was practically assured. All there was left was a colossal amount of work! Could this be the performance of the year?

There was little physical action by the actor, other than meaningful, discreet face and body movements. The director has carefully chosen a crew that is oozing quality, to accompany this solo performer’s tour of action and ensure a rich, vivid image.

I always feel sorry for actors in plays with tragic or surprise endings, as inevitably the applause is muted whilst the mesmerised and drained audience gathers its breath after the assault.

It is always good for publicist to have a thought-provoking show that they can be proud to promote; Alison Welburn has the very best.

Any student studying, or thinking of studying acting should see this play – it will set the bar for you and leave you gasping. A triumph.