See Grounded for Kate Cole’s performance or for the writing or to be reminded how theatre can creep into your heart with a mixture of hurt and happiness that makes you feel a little bit more alive.
Grounded is a monologue about an American fighter pilot who is already far away and thinking about drinking with the boys when the bombs she drops explode. For her it’s about the speed and the blue, and when pregnancy, love and marriage intervene, she isn’t put back in the sky and her blue is replaced by the grey of a screen as she flies a drone from a box in a desert base not far from Las Vegas.
George Brant’s script was first seen in 2013 in Scotland and by 2015 will have had 22 productions in the UK, USA, Europe and Australia. It’s won awards and generally been raved about. And rightly so. It’s an astonishing piece of writing that successfully questions the political, moral and global by telling a personal story.
I want to say it’s heartbreaking, but if it were told from a different angle, we might celebrate its ending. What’s so powerful is how it personalises modern warfare so much that it’s impossible to distance ourselves from it. And it’s beautiful writing that takes us from endless blue to empty Pepsi cans on an dark desert road as its strands reach and curl back to their starting point like a spirograph.
And it’s performed by Kate Cole.
Under Kirsten Von Bibra’s direction, she stands in a khaki flight suit in a box design (Matthew Adey) that curves its concrete and hides its secret in the open. Cole’s performance is so grippingly real that the actor disappears.
In a stage world that’s all technique, lighting and manipulation, she takes us into the sky and desert and even though they are never described, the audience can see her husband and child and those in the grey on the screen. It’s a performance that has so much supporting it that it looks easy and natural. She lets the pilot be unlikable and do the unthinkable, while letting us understand and love her so much that the audience is almost breathing in time with her by the final moments.
It’s on until mid-July, but the space is small so it’s best to book and be safe.