A Girl and a Gun takes its name from the famous statement usually attributed to Jean Luc Godard: “all you need to make a movie is a gun and a girl”. There are times when you can sense overtones of the French New Wave in Louise Orwin’s latest production, among a host of other nods to cinema, but A Girl and a Gun is live theatre through and through.
“Every joke teems with social comment, every laugh underpinned with guilt”
Taking the Godard quote as a jumping-off point, Orwin sets about staging a ‘film’ with just two actors: she plays ‘Her’, and the role of ‘Him’ is played by a novice, chosen before the start of the show with no knowledge of the role. The script (both words and stage directions), appear teleprompter-style on a screen just before they are spoken. To add to the effect of its being a staged film, there are two cameras trained on the stage, live-broadcasting the feed to a screen at the back.
There are layers, depths and contradictions to A Girl and a Gun. The story is ostensibly a stripped-down pastiche of action films. The man is an outlaw, a gunslinger of ambiguous time and place. He falls in love with ‘Her’, who is won over by his coolness, his violence. Their romance is treated with detached absurdity – an absurdity coded into the script and made manifest by the amateur, audience-volunteer nature of the male lead. Having such a literal everyman fill the role is a stroke of genius. Not only is it, somewhat ironically, designed to show Godard’s statement in action (for it is self-evidently Orwin’s practiced charisma and theatricality that holds the story together), but it serves as a perfect, complex interrogation of cinema’s obsession with the male cypher.
It is a quite consistently funny show, making you laugh even as it undercuts with social criticism. There are jokes at the expense of genre clichés – the show is unquestionably cine-literate – but none are frivolous. Every joke teems with social comment, every laugh underpinned with guilt. As the show progresses, the criticism becomes nastier, more overt, and even more effective. The show’s climax, a coming together of girl and gun (and man) in a visceral, unambiguous sense, is shocking and mesmerising theatre.
A Girl and a Gun is cinema, live theatre and film theory at once. Orwin is fantastic, playing the role well with an unfailingly straight face, letting the ironies and absurdities (of not just her show but of cinema itself) appear only through inference. It is a masterpiece of feminist criticism, neck-deep in the passive toxicity of male cinema. Layered, brave and creatively eloquent, A Girl and a Gun will blow you away.
Image: Louise Orwin