This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my rifle is useless. Without my rifle I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy, who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will. Full Metal Jacket
Most people know Jean-Luc Godard’s famous maxim: “All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun.” Theatremaker Louise Orwin uses this quote as a jumping-off point to explore this dynamic in cinema and culture, and the way they feed each other. While the things Orwin raises can be attributed to cinematic history in a wider sense, certain elements in the show are presented in the aesthetic style used by director Quentin Tarantino, who in some ways is the epitome of the ‘a girl and a gun’ ethos.
Similar to the Royal Court’s Manwatching, which has a male guest reading the script ‘cold’ in each performance, A Girl And A Gun splits the dialogue read on the autocue between Orwin and a male performer. On the evening I attended, comedian Joseph Cullen had the honours, which in hindsight proved to be an inspired choice. Between the two of them, they play ‘Him’ and ‘Her’.
Two cameras are postioned in the performance space. One on stage right, next to ‘Him’ and providing the male gaze, while the other faces the front, providing the close-ups of whoever is front of the stage. Through these techniques, Orwin’s creates her own ‘commentary’ through cinematic language.
Actions such as Orwin dancing open up the questions about the role of women in certain films. Are they there as characters who have an integral part of the movie or are they there just to be looked at? Over the course of the show ‘Her’ and ‘Him’ wear different outfits, and in the case of ‘Him’ there’s one in particular – the archetypal gunslinger from Westerns.
It dawned on me while watching the show that up until the 1960s, Westerns and war movies were amongst the most popular genre in movies and that they presented the de facto presentation of masculinity on screen. Throw in film noir into the mix with crime stories and femme fetales featuring prominently, and that’s three genres where guns are ‘integral’ to the film’s ambience. While smoking in movies in recent times has declined, reflecting today’s attitudes regarding its health risks, guns show no sign of disappearing from our screens. What with the current debate over gun control in the US, it seems inevitable that it will be an uphill struggle, what with the myriad of films and tv programmes advocating their use.
Through the depiction of ‘guns’ in computer games in the show, Orwin shows another avenue of ‘entertainment’ where they are commonplace. So much so in fact, we sometimes fail to register their ubiquitous presence. But of course people can tell the difference between a game and reality, can’t they…?
The theme of violence is continued with Orwin’s repetitious re-enactment of the woman shot down in a hail of bullets – the beautiful death/corpse that is a motif in films such as Bonnie & Clyde (1968) and The Neon Demon (2016). A combination of ‘sex and violence’, Hitchcock’s legacy continues to thrive, resistent to the whims of time.
But Orwin’s decision to ‘leave’ at the end while ‘her’ dialogue is still running on the autocue shows that women don’t have to follow the ‘script’ that is ‘written’ for them and follow the role of ‘victim’. In real life, they can choose what they should do, say or accept from others.
© Michael Davis 2018
A Girl And A Gun runs at the Vault Festival until 18th March. (14:55) (19:20)