We've had an amazing time at VAULT this week with our own show, Follow Suit, but moving into the final week of VAULT Festival are some incredible shows. We had the chance to speak to a bunch of them, including Louise Orwin - who's show A Girl And A Gun enjoyed a great run in Edinburgh last year.
What drove you to make A Girl and A Gun?
I’ve always been really into film, especially exploitation cinema and the new wave, and growing up I used to have a particular hankering for the kind of films that starred femme fatales. In fact, in many ways I think I modelled my own specific breed of femininity on those kind of female roles- mostly in the way I dressed and styled myself, but maybe following a certain attitude as well. However, as I got older and my politics developed I became more and more uneasy about being a fan of these tropes. I found that I was increasingly simultaneously attracted and repulsed by the kind of imagery these films conveyed, and then I came across this quote by Godard: ‘All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun.’ It’s a famous quote, which I had heard before, but for some reason coming across it as this point in my life, it seemed like a shot between the eyes, and I began to see everything differently. I began wondering about all the things this quote assumed: who is making these films? Who are these films for? In so many ways these two things (Girls + Guns) became props or plot devices, glittery accessories, for the kind of ‘cool’ masculinity that was being represented on film, rather than being meaningful in their own right. Then followed a year of feeling like I couldn’t get away from this image: I felt like I was seeing girls and guns everywhere, and they were being used to sell everything from sex, to perfume, to records. They were in films, on the side of buses, on youtube (WHATEVER YOU DO DON’T SEARCH FOR ‘GIRLS AND GUNS’ ON YOUTUBE), on people’s walls, everywhere… So, naturally, I decided I needed to make a show about it! I wanted to make a show that interrogated this specific appetite for the image of the girl and the gun, and that questioned the kind of yearning that not only a straight man might have for these images, but that a well-educated, reasonably-politically-informed queer woman might have too. The show questions why we might constantly consume these images, but also what we’re supporting when we buy into a system that produces them.
Who is A Girl and A Gun for?
It’s for film fans, experimental theatre fans, feminists, people who are curious about feminism. The show is littered with pop culture references across the board, so I think there’s lots in it for a really wide spectrum of people. The show is written to evoke an uncanny sense of familiarity with the material, to really look at how much of this stuff is completely embedded in our brains, and I love seeing the different references that people pick up along the way.
It is also performed by me and a different, unprepared male performer every night- so the show is super live and interesting to watch. The show itself is set up like a live film-making experiment: I wrote a film script that was evocative of the kind of cinema that stars girls and guns as main plot devices, the dialogue and stage directions run continuously on an autocue screen on stage which my male performer and I take our cues from. There are also two cameras on stage which capture the action, relaying it to a screen behind us so that you can see both the live action unfolding before you, and the beautiful cinematic version above us on the screen. The male performer is asked to perform the role as fully as he can, but is also told that he should only go as far as he is comfortable… It really does make for edge of your seat viewing.
What about theatre makes it a good platform for discussion?
If done right, I believe it’s its liveness, and the feeling of being in a temporary community of witnesses and participants. I believe bringing an issue to the table in theatre often means you can open up more nuanced ways of looking at it, something which I honestly thinkhas been lost in recent times- with clickbait listicles, and on social media platforms where its all about words, words, words. With the best theatre you can really open up all your senses to the understanding of something: how it feels, how it sounds, how it sits with you. It can be a great space for reflection and digestion too- something which again I feel we’ve lost in an age of being bombarded constantly with information, and what’s new, and what’s next. Theatre can allow us the space to sit with ourselves, and most importantly, to sit with each other.
What theatre ‘turn offs’ do you have?
When I’m pandered to. I like to do a certain amount of work when I go to the theatre, because I believe that makes for the most satisfying experience. Don’t spoon-feed me what you want me to know, give me credit to do the work myself, and give me the space and just enough information to create the meaning myself.
What was the last show that moved you to action?
‘Wild Bore’. Fuck Me. I saw it in Edinburgh this year, and aside from it making me want to seriously up my game, it gave me a whole load more confidence in how I deal with criticism, and general mansplaining in my life. I left feeling really empowered. It was total IDGAF work, and I loved it.
What shows at VAULT are you looking forward to?
For A Black Girl
Catch A Girl And A Gun (one of the Stage's top picks for week 8!) from 14-18th March!