Arts Reviews

A Girl and A Gun @ Nottingham Playhouse

At first, Louise Orwin’s play might strike an audience as a play that is unfinished, or in need of development perhaps, but it will quickly dawn upon you that its state of under-development is the whole point. Louise called her show a ‘live film-making experiment’ and, after all, according to Jean-Luc Godard, ‘all you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun’. 

At the beginning of the play the audience are told that, each night, Louise picks a new man to act alongside her as ‘Him’. He is unrehearsed and reads the script from an autocue for the entire play. He can decline to perform anything he is uncomfortable with. The audience are told all this and they look concerned, naturally. Yet, with seemingly relative ease, he quickly becomes ‘He’, the character, an archetypal western-film hero who idolises his guns (both his own guns and the weapon itself), and ‘She’, Louise, takes on all of the stereotypical female roles we have seen in cinemas since the earliest silent films. ‘She’ is everything from the innocent beauty, tied to train tracks and waiting for her male hero to come to the rescue, to the gun-wielding femme fatale character – Louise, as the playwright and the performer, covers all of the classics. The audience member will begin to lose count of how many films this play is reminiscent of. Paradoxically, the play highlights how easy it is to engage an audience with simply ‘a girl and a gun’, the way it does in the movies but, at the same time, criticises the audience for being engaged in such a show.

“These same scenes have been played out again and again in practically every other action and romance movie in cinemas today”

The play also jumps back and forward between scenes in a typical Quentin Tarantino movie style. It seems like there is no clear plot line and only snippets of scenes. The only way to follow this is to take note of the headings that pop up on a screen behind the action. However, by the end of the play, despite your enthralment in the action, the audience realises that the play has a very simple plot line about a relationship developing between a man and a woman. You will realise that these same scenes have been played out again and again to you, countless times, in practically every other action and romance movie in cinemas today, but you got caught up with the lights, the music, the dancing girl and the guns.

“There seems to be an uncomfortable tension in the room”

The strange cross-over between theatre and cinema in Louise Orwin’s play means that the audience is left to question whether they are comfortable watching these scenes played out on such vast cinema screens, but not in a small and cosy theatre space.  There seems to be an uncomfortable tension in the room, due to being up close and personal with the shocking sexualised acting of Louise and her chosen ‘Him’ for that night. It leaves the audience wanting to look away to the video version of their acting displayed behind them, and wanting to escape back to the familiar safety net of a TV screen that separates audience from actor so well. All this tension is only amplified further when Louise points out the audience’s involvement within her script, “it’s like we’re in a movie,” she says, “and they’re watching us in some dark theatre somewhere…and they’re hoping we won’t look at them”.

“Watching A Girl and a Gun will make you feel like you have been placed right in the centre of a film set and have become part of the film itself”

With a camera man filming the action amongst the audience, watching A Girl and a Gun will make you feel like you have been placed right in the centre of a film set, and somehow, unbeknownst to you, you have become part of the film itself. Audience involvement was such that when there was a minor medical incident regarding Louise during her comical over-dramatisation of a typical ‘western-movie-style’ death, the audience seemed unsure about whether it was part of the action or part of reality. Only after being asked to leave the theatre for a short interval did the audience realise that it was, in fact, reality.

“It is a truly unique play: comical, experimental and thought-provoking”

This post-modern criticism on film is taking a feminist stance against what Orwin says are “the same old tired tropes [that] continue to exist [because] film-makers know that certain types of imagery will sell”. The interesting part is that Orwin admits that “largely [the film-makers] are not wrong” and that, in this play, she has set about testing whether Godard and all the rest have been right all along. It is a truly unique play: comical, experimental and thought-provoking. A spoof of the generic, over-sexualised, western action film played out right in front of you.


Finola Billings 

Image courtesy of Louise Orwin.

For more information on Louise and her performances, and to book tickets, see here

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