Review: Deafinitely Theatre’s ‘Grounded,’ starring Nadia Nadarajah

Posted on October 30, 2015

I’ve seen a lot of Deafinitely Theatre’s work over the years, and until I saw Grounded on Wednesday night, the two highlights for me were their hit version of Love’s Labour’s Lost at The Globe and Tanika’s Journey, both in 2012.

I think this new piece, also directed by Paula Garfield, is up there with those two in terms of the impact it makes on the audience, though the work it most reminded me of was one of their earliest plays, Motherland, which was about Deaf people in Nazi Germany.

Grounded also focuses on the theme of war, albeit in a very different way. It’s about a female fighter pilot in the American armed forces who is forced to operate drones after having a baby.

Having been flying in the perfect blue sky, she then spends her days looking at a dull grey screen, and finds that even though she is firing at targets remotely, the disconnectedness of her work begins to affect her state of mind at home when she returns home each night to her family.

Photo copyright Marc Brenner

Photo copyright: Marc Brenner

Grounded is already an award-winning play which is usually performed by one actor. For Deafinitely’s interpretation of the play, two actors perform on stage, Nadia Nadarajah, who performs in BSL, and Charmaine Wombwell, who performs in spoken English.

I watched Nadia’s performance throughout. She was compelling – her signs and physical movements (choreographed by Ramesh Meyyappan, also Deaf) illustrating visually every stage of the story – from flying a fighter plane to meeting her husband and then flying the drones. The intensity of Nadia’s character’s journey could be seen by purely looking into her eyes, never mind her face, body, arms and hands.

The two actors largely kept in synch throughout, covering the same sections of the narrative, even if, naturally, they always didn’t match each other word for word or line for line. You wouldn’t want them to – not only is the structure of BSL different from English, the way of getting the meaning of a line across visually in BSL is also different. A single movement in BSL can cover the same amount of ground as a whole paragraph of dialogue in English.

It’s refreshing to see a play with Deaf actors in which uses sign language to bring its story to life, while covering non-deaf themes that the audience can consider. The play itself is about modern warfare, and how being able to influence events without actually being there doesn’t necessarily protect people from the psychological effects of their actions. It’s about being disconnected, through technology and modern life, and how that affects the things that are most precious to us.

Grounded is thought-provoking and I recommend you go along and see it.

Grounded can be seen at the Park Theatre, in London (nearest tube Finsbury Park) until 21st November. Click here to find out more on the Deafinitely Website and book tickets.
Review by Charlie Swinbourne, Editor.
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