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Review: Grounded at Holden St Theatres

By Carly Fisher

The Pilot enters from the back of the small theatre dressed in a full flight suit, black boots and with hair in a neat tight bun. She walks with military precision, taking corners sharply and diligently – the walk that many will be familiar with if they have ever witnessed a changing of the guard ceremony. This is a fighter who, immediately, one can tell is well trained, precise and respectful of her post. The Pilot tells us of ‘the blue’ – the vastness of the sky and the brilliance of being amongst it. We can tell she is passionate about her job in a way that informs that this is more than just her career path, but her whole identity as well.

Used to hanging out with the guys on time off at the local bars, the Pilot is unprepared for a man who is not turned off by her toughness, but is charmed by it instead. They hook up, multiple times, and accidentally and surprisingly, she falls pregnant. Pregnant women are forbidden to fly in the air force and as such, the Pilot is now grounded. By the time she returns to work, the war has changed from fighter jets to drones…and with this, the stage is set for George Brant’s phenomenal script, Grounded.

This is the roll of a lifetime for many women – the script that Brant offers is insightful, it is raw and it is superbly detailed as we venture into the mind of a woman who must fight for her country by day but be a mother and a wife by night. She exposes the negatives of a war fought in shift work – drone fighting may seem like a great idea as soldiers are safely on home soil and fight with machinery in the air, but as the war blurs into every day life, one must question if this is truly a sustainable life at all for those who serve.

Expertly directed by Poppy Rowley, Martha Lott takes on the role of the Pilot and is simply superb. Lott navigates the ups-and downs of the sharp, emotive and highly intricate play with ease and allows the audience to feel deeply for the Pilot – she is a woman stuck with wanting to still be a good mother but a fighter who wants to be of use and serve. As the home front lines blur and the war seemingly surrounds her every move, even from the safety of Las Vegas, our hearts break for her, and yet there is never a sense of pity evoked as Lott proves her strength throughout. We deeply empathise with her but never look down at her. It is a skilled actress who can pull this off and Lott is certainly that.

The set is simple – a drape cloth semi circle encloses the stage and, bar the strokes of patternless paint, relies on the lighting to offer variety in the setting, time or location. I felt that the set, although perhaps overly simple, absolutely worked for the production. The use of a single brown leather chair centre stage was welcomed and offered levels to the performance that made it, although a one woman show heavy on dialogue, interesting to watch the movement that accompanied the great text.

Brant’s script happens to be one of my personal favourites and as a true fan of this show, I went in with high expectations that were skilfully met by the fantastic work of Lott and Rowley. I’m already ready to see this wonderful show again and urge those yet to see it in Adelaide to grab their tickets to the Holden St Theatre this weekend.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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