Grounded is a critically-acclaimed psychological thriller by award-winning playwright George Brant, telling the story of an F16 fighter pilot whose career in the sky grounds to a halt when she becomes pregnant.
The play is an Edinburgh Festival Fringe First award winner and a Lucille Lortel Award winner. A screenplay is also currently in development for a film starring Anne Hathaway. And in a new production by National Theatre of Parramatta, Grounded has arrived at Riverside Theatres for a limited season.
Directed by Dom Mercer, Artistic Associate at Belvoir, the production stars Emily Havea, whose stage credits include Julius Caesar for Bell Shakespeare, Kill Climate Deniers for Griffin Theatre and BU21 for Old 505 Theatre, while her TV credits include Network 10’s Sisters and Foxtel’s multi-award-winning drama Wentworth.
Havea recently appeared on stage at the Old Fitz with Ayeesha Ash and Angela Nica in Brown Skin Girl, a piece created by the trio about their experiences of being women of colour growing up in Australia.
“That show really taught me to stand in the centre of my own narrative,” Havea tells Theatre People.
She shares her initial reaction to Grounded.
“I read it and I was honestly blown away by the script. It’s a stunning piece of work,” she says.
“The idea of standing alone on stage for 80 minutes was fairly daunting at first. But now that we’re here, I’m starting to feel surprisingly more comfortable with it.”
Havea describes her character as “wonderfully complex”.
“I’ve played a bunch of roles since graduating drama school and I haven’t found one that demands as much of me as a performer,” she says. “She is a highly competent, highly skilled, highly trained, highly educated woman at the top of her field, and then has a baby and has this beautiful, maternal loving side. It’s such a joy to be able to explore those two sides of myself and of the character, and all the nuances and complexities that come with that.”
Havea anticipates Grounded appealing to a broad range of people.
“I think women of all ages, definitely. I think a younger crowd as well. I’m 27 and I think that it’s very interesting to explore the idea of being incredibly capable and at the top of your game, and joining motherhood with that and taking on that other role and that decision and that choice and that balance.
“I think there’s a lot in there for a lot of people to resonate with. And I guess also how modern warfare has really developed … Drones are a huge change in the game in military and I think technology, in general, the way our world is rapidly evolving … it’s interesting to see the effect it has on the people. Yes, technology is evolving, but what does that do to the people that are behind the screen that are faced with the realities of this?”
Grounded reunites Havea with Mercer, with whom she worked during her third year at NIDA. It was Mercer who approached Havea about taking on the sole acting role in this production.
“He honestly is such a delight to work with,” she says. “I have so much time for that man.”
But Havea also praises all of those working behind the scenes on this production.
“It’s such a creative dream team to be a part of and a joy to be in the room,” she says. “It really makes dealing with such heavy subject matter at times a lot easier.”
Grounded is Havea’s first experience working with the National Theatre of Parramatta, which is now in its fourth year. It’s given her the chance to get to know Parramatta.
“I am in love with Parramatta! It’s such a beautiful place, it’s wonderfully diverse,” she says. “Parramatta feels like a place to be.”
Havea all shares what she thinks audiences will take away from Grounded.
“I think audiences will walk away with a greater understanding and, I hope, an empathy towards what it takes to serve in the military,” she says. “It’s something actually, as an actor, I’ve not spent too much time thinking about. The military and the force is not really a part of my world and I think, in an Australian context, we don’t really have a general public support for people who serve the same way that Americans do. So, I think people will walk away with an appreciation for what it takes to do these kinds of things.”
GROUNDED – SEASON DETAILS
Dates and times:
Friday 15 March at 7.45pm
Saturday 16 March at 7.45pm
Tuesday 19 March at 7.45pm
Wednesday 20 March at 7.45pm
Thursday 21 March at 7.45pm
Friday 22 March at 7.45pm
Saturday 23 March at 2.15pm and 7.45pm
Tickets:Adult $49, Concession $44 From the Box Office (02) 8839 3399 or www.riversideparramatta.com.au. Transaction fees: phone $4.60, web $3.60 and counter $2.60.
Discounts available for Riverside Theatres’ Members.
Venue: Riverside Theatres (Corner of Church and Market Streets, Parramatta)