Leaving the auditorium after watching Grounded I had many mixed feelings. Martha Lott’s portrayal of a jet fighter pilot who’s reassigned after an unplanned pregnancy is astounding. At no point during the performance did I remember that I was in a theatre and the person standing on stage was an actor. Her confident posture, the coarse language, the laddish banter, all seemed to genuinely come from years of training and working in the air force. Yet, there was something about this play that left a bitter aftertaste.
The leading theme is as compelling as Lott’s delivery. It’s the story of a woman totally dedicated to her career and loving every bit of it. As an ace pilot, she feels at home in the sky and, yes, she also enjoys dropping bombs to kill the “guilty” – as she calls the targets that she is assigned.
Then she starts dating a guy and, before she knows it, she’s pregnant, taken away from her cockpit and reassigned to a desk job. But she’s fairly happy, because love is slowly finding space in her heart and her sadness for leaving the job ‘she worked her arse for’ seems only superficial. The thrill of being desired by another human is comparable to that of being in the sky.
When she’s finally able to return to her pilot’s duties, however, the tactics of warfare have changed, and jet fighters have been replaced by remotely controlled drones. Her new cockpit is now a windowless trailer in the middle of the Nevada desert. Whilst this allows her to be safer and spend more time with her family, something inside her starts crumbling and her mental health is at stake.
The point is made, as to why women are too often urged to set aside their personal fulfilment in favour of building a family. Perhaps, entirely recognising myself in that character, I secretly wished that the line of work taken as an example hadn’t been so controversial.
Written by: George Brant
Directed by: Poppy Rowley
Produced by: Holden Street Theatres
Booking Link: https://adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/grounded-af2020
Booking Until: 8 March 2020