Fly­ing solo on stage

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Theatre - Tanya MacNaughton

FLY­ING F-16s over Iraq as a US Air Force pi­lot is not ex­actly a ca­reer that ac­tor Ali­son van Reeken can re­late to with her char­ac­ter in Ge­orge Brant’s award-win­ning solo play Grounded, but want­ing to re­turn to work af­ter moth­er­hood is.

“The jour­ney of the play is that she falls preg­nant un­ex­pect­edly and is then forced to leave the Air Force,” van Reeken said.

“She can’t fly while preg­nant and stays at home to look af­ter her baby, but af­ter a few years of that she starts to go stir-crazy and wants to get back to work, which is some­thing I fully un­der­stand.

“Her com­man­der tells her things have changed while she was away and she now needs to fly drones, which re­ally up­sets her be­cause she’s mad for fly­ing.”

Van Reeken said the re­main­der of the play, which has been per­formed on Broad­way by Anne Hath­away who bought the rights for a film ver­sion, ex­am­ined what it was to be a drone pi­lot and how it changed mod­ern war­fare.

“It’s a huge moral quag­mire; a re­ally dif­fer­ent way of go­ing to war and tax­ing on the pi­lots,” she said.

“We’ve done a lot of re­search and with­out giv­ing any­thing away, it fol­lows her jour­ney.

“It’s not a com­plete tragedy though; there are some funny mo­ments in it but it does get pretty dark.”

Van Reeken said she was at­tracted to the play be­cause she had never per­formed solo and de­cided it was time to tackle the chal­lenge.

She has been di­rected by long-time col­lab­o­ra­tor Emily McLean, who with ac­tor hus­band Benj D’Ad­dario started in­de­pen­dent the­atre com­pany Red Ry­der Pro­duc­tions in 2005.

“In a cost-cut­ting en­vi­ron­ment, a solo show that doesn’t re­quire a mas­sive spend on set is very ap­peal­ing,” the mother of two said.

“We se­cured the rights in 2014 but it took a bit of time to find a mo­ment in the year that suited me, Emily and also Benj, be­cause he was go­ing to be with the kids.”

Ali­son van Reeken in Grounded.

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