I Feel the Need

21/08/22

Assembly Rooms, George Street (Powder Room), Edinburgh

I Feel the Need is an autobiographical piece delivered by Loree Draude (the surname rhymes with ‘Rowdy’, which explains why it was her call sign when she was a Navy aviator), and was co-written and developed with Beth Bornstein Dunnington. Draude was one of the first women to fly combat planes and she’s very quick to tell us that, while Top Gun: Maverick may be most people’s reference point for her experiences, it is wildly inaccurate. She’s here to talk about what it was really like trying to land an F15 Phantom on an aircraft carrier. She did it more than three hundred times, logged 1600 flight hours and lived to tell the tale – unlike some of her colleagues.

Draude is an interesting and compelling narrator. She begins with memories of her childhood: she was a theatre-obsessed teenager, with dreams of becoming a dancer, something her Catholic parents, who both worked in the armed forces, were horrified to hear. As somebody whose father was also from a military background, I identify with her dilemma. I made my decision to go into the arts from an early age, but Lori took a little longer to arrive at pretty much the same conclusion.

She also lets us in on her personal life, telling us what happened to her after she finished her active service. About the trials and tribulations of motherhood and how she struggled to maintain a marriage with a husband who was steadily drifting away from her.

I Feel the Need is perhaps most exciting in its early stretches, though Draude has to work very hard to recreate the drama of those early flights. The fact that we’re in a converted shipping container on George Street doesn’t help matters but, to give Draude her due, she goes for it. Perhaps the lighting could have been utilised more effectively to help with this: there are a lot of changes, but what they’re supposed to signify is rarely clear.

The more recent realisation that, in order to move on from her failed marriage, she needed to learn to ‘love herself’ feels very earnest and, as a buttoned-up Brit, I’m not quite sure how to take it – but maybe that’s just me. Draude also dedicates her performance to her fellow naval aviators – the ones that didn’t make it out alive – and that seems a decent thing to do

So, anyone on the lookout for a more realistic account of a ‘Top Gun’ life will find what they’re looking for in The Powder Room. Flight suits are optional.

3.5 stars

Philip Caveney

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