It’s not often that I come across art of any description that gets me thinking as much as this fascinating show by Louise Orwin. She comes on stage in a red dress and cowboy boots and starts to speak in a southern American drawl. We the audience know this, because she’s standing in front of a screen with a projection of herself, plus the text that is spoken, and stage directions.
This could be an opportunity for things to get all self-referential and annoying, and the triumph of this show is that it kind of does that… but so playfully and intelligently that Louise gets away with it where most performers would disappear somewhere up their cleverness.
This is a show about how America has colonised our imaginations. Who needs an actual invasion force when you can get into people's heads with the power of films that audiences love and can’t get enough of? Louise portrays the kind of small-town girl you’ve seen in countless Hollywood films get mixed up with the wrong boy. He joins her on stage to woo her, be confused by their powerful feelings, and get violent as their relationship goes through stages we know - the same way so that the girl in question can be called Peggy Sue, Mary Lou, or Cherry Pie and still be the same person.
All of this is punctuated by dancing, posing with revolvers, and writing that gets under the skin of the creepiness of the relationships that Hollywood films often choose to depict; where daddy and boyfriend are oddly interchangeable, much as guns and cocks can be.
Which means if you find ideas like that annoying and/or pretentious, you probably won’t get on with this show. Otherwise, I’d recommend this as a provocation of a sort that owes as much to performance art as it does to theatre – another way of saying it doesn’t have a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Or that it kind of does, but they’re not the point of what you’re watching. No sirree.
A Girl and A Gun was performed at Nottingham Playhouse on Friday 16 September 2016.