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Review of Gun Metal Blue at The Old Red Lion Theatre

Jed Shardlow
Jed Shardlow

Should you know someone who happens to be a company director – that is, one whose personal details are registered at Companies House – there is an awful lot of information readily available about them at the touch of a few mouse clicks on a computer. But even if you will never be a director, there may still be a decent amount of information about you that can be mined from social media accounts. Now, you may recall the 1990s adverts about the ‘information superhighway’, and the 1996 motion picture The Cable Guy, in which an installer of cable television stalks one of his customers (well, he stalks quite a few customers, which is why the cable TV company fires him after they find out).

Fast forward to 2017, and this production of Gun Metal Blue looks at what is possible in the digital era, combined with a smidge of good old-fashioned investigation work by asking the right people in the right places for further information. Laura (Sasha Wilson) and her brother-in-law Ben (Paris Bailey), between them, manage to frame Matthew (Jed Shardlow) in such a way that they are the sort of characters that would serve the Metropolitan Police Service well had they been working for them and not for themselves.

Paris Bailey
Paris Bailey

There’s some dark humour in an intense script from Helen Jeffery, and none of her characters come off unscathed. At some point flaws and weaknesses are pointed out in each, including Laura’s father Fraser (CJ Barton), who meets Matthew by accident. In brief: Matthew and Laura are on a date. After this, they go to Laura’s place, presumably for some bedroom activity. Having (if I recall correctly) locked himself out of his own house, Fraser pops around to see his daughter, as she keeps a spare key in the event of such circumstances occurring.

A number of friends and acquaintances expressed surprise when I read out the salient points from the press release for a show called Gun Metal Blue, assuming before I did so that it was something to do with the Armed Forces, the Wild West, or a heavy metal band. Instead it is billed as “a story of ethics, romance and the secrets that we keep”. What’s interesting is that it is difficult to understand how anything relating to ‘gun metal blue’ could relate to those themes. But having seen the show, I can’t imagine it being called anything else. All I will say is that there’s this cocktail called ‘gun metal blue’ (an actual drink – call up ‘gun metal blue cocktail recipe’ in a search engine of your choice if you want to know the particulars), and as I say, Matthew and Laura were on a date.

Quite a few details are exchanged between Matthew and Laura, some of which seem rather superfluous, but in the end, turn out to be useful, in the way in which Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot would point out seemingly insignificant statements, items or descriptions in his investigations. Perhaps the scenario presented in this play is very extreme, but it is still entirely plausible. I am, admittedly, woefully naïve when it comes to the world of online dating. I have no idea what it even means to ‘swipe right on Tinder’, and having seen Gun Metal Blue, I’m not about to take an interest any time soon.

I keep returning to the point about bad boy Matthew not being the only antagonist as it is the point that sticks out in my mind. The play’s storyline makes clear that all have fallen significantly short of doing the right thing every time. Because of a number of external contributory factors, it is not as simple as saying X did Y to AN Other person, and that’s unquestionably the sole reason why that person has suffered.

That’s how it is in the real world, with its complications and imponderables. There’s a feast of food for thought in this thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Matthew seems like the perfect date… but Laura might know something – a secret that could blow his world apart.
Helen Jeffery’s Gun Metal Blue is an intricate a story of ethics, romance and the secrets that we keep in 2017. In a world where information is at the click of a button, and how we approach sex and relationships is ever-changing, Blink. Theatre address the skewed, voyeuristic world in which we live today.

Blink. create contemporary, psychological theatre. Following Helen Jeffery’s acclaimed debut on post-natal illness – The Brink – at Greater Manchester Fringe, their decision to bring Gun Metal Blue to the Old Red Lion this Spring emerges from a desire to nurture new, relevant voices in 2017. Gun Metal Blue addresses relationships, alternative truths and what we might consider a
traditional family unit – all from the perspective of ethical human behaviour.
We all keep secrets – but which ones are acceptable to keep?
Gun Metal Blue is suitable for ages 15+.

Directed by Samson Hawkins
Produced by Benjamin Victor
30th April, 1st May at 7.30pm
http://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/theatre.html

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