Gate Theatre, Notting Hill Gate, 15th March 2017
Given that Grounded is now into its third run at the Gate and that is has had critical acclaim heaped upon it the last thing it needs is this chump adding to the sound and fury. But it seems I am something of a completist when it comes to recording my cultural journey so so no let off for you I am afraid.
And it is good. I mean really good. There was a bit of me that was a bit dubious going in to this. Potentially obvious target with an an obvious outcome (I swear no irony intended in this). But it is some much more than it appears on the surface. To check this I whizzed through the script. Do that and compare to what you have just seen and I think what the writer George Brant has created and, in particular, what Lucy Ellinson, conjures up alone on stage is just really, really good theatre. Makes you care and makes you think without overtly moralising (well maybe right at the end).
The Pilot at the outset is exactly what you might expect of an F-16 fighter pilot. Then love, husband and child take over and the Pilot ends up flying a drone from a base in the Nevada desert. That is when the dilemmas and the twists (of a sort) kick in. The pace of the monologue is rapid but full of imagery (sky, desert, Vegas, family life, being boxed in amongst many others) and Lucy Ellinson completely inhabits the character. In some ways the journey the pilot takes and where she ends up is, in retrospect, predictable but the insight into being a woman in this world, into balancing home and this sort of work (including its drudgery and social interaction as well as its obvious purpose), into the psychological stress of killing from afar, into the morality of this sort of war, are all revealed in a smart way.
Now it is possible that this worked for me because I am a liberal type who knows f**k all about what it is to be the person who is tasked with killing but Brant certainly got me thinking about all of that.
Anyway see for yourself whilst it is still on. Or make a mental reminder should in pop up elsewhere in future.
Oh and a reminder that the best way to see theatre is not in some poxy, neo-classical Edwardian fol-de-rol but above a pub on a bench (though I confess the Gate’s benches are back-breaking – just as well most everything I have seen there has captivated).