Friday, 13 June 2014

Grounded, June 13, 2014 ****

By George Brant, by Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre
Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre, St Kilda, until July 12, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ****
 Full review also published in Herald Sun online and in print on Tues June 17, 2014. KH

Kate Cole Pics by Jodie Hutchinson

Alone on stage, Kate Cole grabs the audience by the throat and doesn’t let go until the end of George Brant’s monodrama about a former fighter pilot who is demoted to flying drones.

After years as a US Air Force ‘rock star of the skies’ flying F16s in the Middle East, this unnamed pilot fall pregnant, takes leave to marry and raise her little girl; but she craves the blue skies and adrenalin rush of flying.

When she returns to work three years later, she is appalled to find that she is grounded and assigned to 12 hour shifts at a desk in Las Vegas from which she remotely pilots a drone over the Pakistan desert.

As this arrogant, manic woman, Cole prowls the tiny space like a caged tiger, with her energy barely contained, her teeth gritted and eyes blazing with frustration at her incarceration in this grey bunker, far from the real action of Pakistan.

Cole self-narrates this elite pilot’s story, posturing like a rock star as she proudly relives her years as an elite pilot and describes the joyful camaraderie of being ‘one of the boys’.

Kirsten Von Bibra’s direction is smart and stylish, focusing on the character’s spiral from the heights of confident success to a state of confusion and uncertainty.

Evocative music (Elizabeth Drake), inventive lighting and stark design (Matthew Adey) heighten the volatile atmosphere.

Cole skillfully explores the tragedy of this woman’s psychological deterioration as she tumbles from vibrating dynamism into dangerous despair.

She gives this character life with her staccato movements, rigid frame and a sense that she is in a constant state of tension and preparedness for action; she is ready to kill with the tap of her thumb on a button.

With her clipped, rapid-fire speech, accurate American accent, and assured balancing of comic timing with grim stories of death in the desert, Cole does justice to Brant’s clever dialogue.

Grounded is a compelling, beautifully performed and directed piece of intimate, challenging theatre.

By Kate Herbert

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