The Contact Theatre, Manchester
08 May 2015 to 09 May 2015
According to film director Jean-Luc Godard, A Girl and a Gun are the essential ingredients of a movie. This seems like a truism: the girl represents romance, seduction and conflict, with the gun being menace and action. It does, however, reduce an entire gender to a plot device. Author/performer Louise Orwin is ambivalent about the statement, being attracted to, and repulsed by, the imagery associated with women in the modern media.
For an audience, theatre is a more interactive experience than cinema, and Orwin sets out to involve us in the process of examining the roles of hero and heroine/victim. She does, however, need assistance, and guest Ross McCaffrey takes the male role. Performing without any rehearsal and reading the script entirely from autocue, McCaffrey is a manifestation of the powerless plot device.
A Girl and a Gun comprises a series of archetypical scenes from hardboiled thrillers. Orwin is a sultry but passive Southern belle who ends up as a seductress/victim, and McCaffrey has the more assertive male role that involves firing guns a lot. It is, however, closer to performance art than a play, and consequently the extent to which one can become emotionally involved is limited. The cast convey only the surface emotions of the characters; their less obvious feelings are literally spelt out in surtitles projected on to screens. The audience is complicit in the casual violence to women, as the script directions projected on the screen remind us that the cast are aware we are watching and even hint what we should be feeling.
Technically the show is fascinating, with images projected on to three background screens and the cast, lacking any control, responding to the unexpected demands of the script. McCaffrey has to cope with being the butt of the occasional joke, such as the autocue speeding up, leaving him babbling through the script.
As with any show that has a point to make, once you’ve grasped the arguments a degree of impatience sets in, particularly when scenes are repeated from a different angle. It becomes emotionally alienating and you tend to coolly appreciate the cleverness of the techniques, rather than being drawn into the argument or moved enough to form an opinion on the subject.
Reviewer: David Cunningham