Co-commissioned by Australian Theatre for Young People and Tantrum Theatre, Alana Valentine’s Grounded is a story combining the events and impact of when the Pasha Bulker ran aground on Nobbys Beach in Newcastle.

I have always, always admired and adored Alana Valentine – she is a straight-shooting, robust and rigorous playwright with an unerring political, social conscience and a prolific list of credits and awards to prove it. And she’s got great personal flair.

What is brilliant about this play is the topic- which is not the grounding of the Pasha Bulker – but how do people decide their calling? How are leaders formed? I will be a little provocative here and add: How does the culture of teenagers (and wider/older Australia) compromise and limit difference and diversity.

We watch the politics of teenagers- the insufferable pressure from peers and parents for teens to fulfill roles they may not be relevant or interesting to them. How does the group stifle brilliance, or ambition? How can adults support the vision and ambition of Australia’s leaders?

Valentine’s play traverses a lot of ground to bring us up to speed – the landscape, the culture of the local teenagers, the social context – it is 2007 and myspace is HUGE and the White Stripes are still together. But this isn’t a retro-spectacle -there are many timeless truths 1. There are still jobs in Australia which are male dominated and 2. “Difference” in a person is an open invitation to be bullied.

As a former-country girl, I can only but applaud ATYP for their partnership with Tantrum to provided much needed opportunity and exchange for young people in rural areas. Though at times the direction of the piece underserved the text at times, I can only applaud Alana Valentine for consistently putting a social message in her work – and for honouring the community of Newcastle and the unacknowledged heroines and heros (and those yet to discover that they are/will be heroines and heros) for their work.