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Review of A Girl and A Gun at The Vault Festival – London

A Girl & A Gun Louise Orwin -Photo credit Field and McGlynn
A Girl & A Gun Louise Orwin – Image credit Field and McGlynn

Swiss-French film director Jean-Luc Godard once said, “All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun”. The truth behind this statement is explored in Louise Orwin’s piece A Girl and a Gun, produced by Jen Smethurst, which made a return to the Vaults Festival this week following a successful run last year.

Orwin stars as “her” in the piece. Her on-stage partner for each performance is played by a male actor who has not seen the script and is unaware of what will happen over the course of the play. They read from an autocue and the performance is filmed and projected onto a screen behind the actors. On this occasion, the role of “him” was played by Luke Courtier. Upon entering the Vaults Studio the two were pretending to drive in a car. Orwin guided Courtier through a number of scenes that were typical situations that might occur between a man and woman on-screen: first meeting etc.

The piece is initially a parody of the Western film genre: lilting southern drawling monologues from both actors, cowboy attire, shootouts etc. Later the script becomes less sarcastic and more sinister, reflecting what actors (male and female) are requested to do across the film industry. Courtier’s unease at some of the choreographed moments was clearly apparent as he sight-read the autocue, unsure as to whether he should continue or stop the on-stage proceedings. Some scenes, such as a dance sequence by Orwin, were run twice, the second time with more seedy connotations as she wore an outfit to dance in that was chosen for her by Courtier instead of the one she chose herself when she danced at the beginning of the show. Some of the scene changes etc were clunky and I thought the use of handheld microphones got in the way of the dialogue but this may have been the limitations of the venue. The sequence of events was well thought out and highly impactful.

The audience themselves are made aware of their part in the piece as the idea of watching a character and being watched themselves is highlighted by the autocue on screen. While the action may be being captured on camera, the exchanges between Courtier and Orwin are also being played out in real time in front of a room of people who are participating, passively whether they like it or not.

A Girl & A Gun is striking and thought-provoking. It is an important work that speaks directly into our current cultural dialogue around #TimesUp and #NeverAgain campaigns as to how we should be seeing people (and guns) interact on stage, on screen and in real life.

4 stars

Review by Fiona Scott

Recently, Louise started seeing girls and guns everywhere. She obsessed over them on YouTube and in music videos, felt a bit disgusted about them in video games, and tried not to see them in pornography. She began to ponder what it was about that coupling that was so attractive and wondered whether Godard was right.

This is a show that asks a woman and an unprepared male performer to play out a film script in front of you. It wonders what the difference is between watching something on screen and experiencing something live. It asks what it means to be a ‘hero’, what it means to be a plot device, and what it means to watch.

Expect gun-twirlin’, play-actin’ and Nancy-Sinatra-dancin’.
And me. And you.


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