Grounded soars high amongst many a Fringe World stage performance.
Red Ryder Production fuses George Brant’s award-winning play, fusing contemporary practice common in the realm of today’s theatre.
Grounded focuses on the controversial topic of drone warfare, from the perspective of an unnamed female fighter pilot (Van Reeken), who is re-assigned away from the sky and onto terra firma, piloting drones, waging war that is 70,000 miles away from home, and yet 1.2 seconds away from it, without the threat of death (and the adrenalin that comes with it) hanging overhead for the members of the ‘chair force’, all whilst maintaining the suburban middle-class life with her husband and daughter.
By keeping the perspective on the topic from the point of view of one anonymous character, and not delving into the politics, it keeps the direction of the play grounded (sorry), and asks the audience to consider the implications that drone warfare has on the individual soul, and imagining the life of a person usually far removed from our own circles, yet not entirely out of the ordinary- the main character’s schedule of dropping a child off to daycare and then going to work (killing foreign men of military age) would be familiar to most.
The entire performance is delivered simply as a monologue, and constructed to be simply delivered by one person, as it was meant to be, by all accounts of other adaptations. The verse is simply sublime, and poetic, with plenty of religious and spiritual motifs recurring throughout, like the use of words like ‘angels’, divine wrath and other such cultural touchstones. Van Reeken carried the entire show all on herself, and did so convincingly, especially in scenes where she was piloting, with the deadpan, emotionless expression that characterizes a certain perspective of the topic.
The sound design was probably its weakest part- not that it wasn’t bad by any stretch of imagination, and noting some obvious creative choices- but on this aspect, it wasn’t inspired either. That said, the lack of extraneous sound effects helps keep focus on the quality of the verse, and the silence. The staging is rather simple, minimalist and effective.
All in all, Grounded is simply a very polished piece regardless of who is adapting the work- it asks our audience on a topic that is usually far and away from our own lives, into the realm of abstract moral philosophy, a refreshing change from the arts being about the here and now.