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Last night I went to see “Grounded” at the Fortune Theatre.

It’s a one woman play starring Claire Chitham as a US air force pilot who is grounded (no longer allowed to fly planes) after becoming pregnant then, returning to the military, finds herself shifted to the “chair force” the disparaging nickname fighter pilots affix to those operating the drone programme stateside.

By the point of our pilot’s arrival in Las Vegas to operate her drone (sitting in a chair using a joystick playing a video game with real consequences), we have already seen her soften her brash tough talking fighter pilot exterior through marriage and motherhood. After initially being reviled at the prospect of the”chairforce” (she yearns to fly planes in “the blue”), where she plus husband and child relocate, our protagonist accepts her new reality. Apathy turns to excitement after the arrival on the screen of some “guilty” military aged males. Tracking them carefully, she lines them up and “boom”, the guilty are sentenced.

Implementing sentence excites her but, soon, long hours, an inability to decompress (her team works shifts so nobody can join her for a beer as she was used to when a pilot) and the lingering memories of her work start to have an impact on her formerly robust psyche. I’d thought the most concerning aspect of drone warfare was the detached ease of killing by remote control but, for our protagonist, seeing body parts on screen makes her actions more real than when dropping bombs from high in the air. It touches some interesting territory and Chitham does a pretty good job covering off multiple scenes and conversations. Visual effects such as a screen with cross hairs tracking a car driving through the desert are also provided to add useful context. The crescendo wasn’t ultimately all that surprising and it was more drawn out than it needed to be. Not the best play I’ve seen over the years (not that I’ve seen many) but still kinda interesting. I’d give it probably somewhere between 6.5 and 7 out of ten.


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