It can be difficult to find a piece of theatre that takes one broad subject and folds it in neatly into an articulate 60 minute performance, never mind two. George Brant’s one-woman play, Grounded, ambitiously collides motherhood with the War on Terror. Winner of the 2012 Smith Prize in America, it’s a fast-paced, energetic piece of storytelling in which Lucy Ellinson plays the central character, a female pilot in the US Army, who when becomes a mother, is forced to rethink her career.
The set is simply a large box, in which The Pilot takes us from the blue of the sky to the grey of the world below. Mark Howland’s lighting design throws spectacle against subtlety to compliment (or juxtapose) the world as depicted by The Pilot. Lucy Ellinson’s feisty, determined performance does the rest. To say that this captures a woman’s ability (or struggle) to maintain a work-life balance is a vast underselling of how raw, brutal and complex the piece is. It swings between being a play about war through a woman’s eyes, and a production about motherhood from a fighter pilot’s point perspective. Because of that, it avoids the clichés associated with either and instead offers something stark, honest, clever and deeply immersive.