Abigail Bryant reviews Big Guns at the Yard Theatre
Big Guns labels itself as a play about violence, but not in a conventional sense. This 70-minute production, written by Nina Segel and directed by Dan Hutton, explores violence in all of its vast and varied shapes, detailing how it pervades imagination, society and culture.
As the audience take their seats ominous music floods the entire room, creating an initial sense of jarring apprehension that is heightened by the fierce red lighting engulfing the stage. The two ‘characters’ (although arguably Debra Baker and Jessye Romeo are more vehicles for the script than plausible characters) begin the play in the throes of consumption, transfixed on a screen and gorging on popcorn. They then engage in erratic and fragmented dialogue that reflects attitudes and observations on click bait culture and a darkness that permeates our daily lives and that inherently lives within all of us.
The ambience created by Rosie Elnile’s slanted staging is powerful and effective as a narrative device, but unfortunately other aspects of the production make for a challenging and un-engaging experience. With a rich and evocative concept at its core, Nina Segel’s script is undoubtedly creative, explorative and intelligent, but its gravity feels lost on the stage. The pace of the dialogue is arduously fast, and much like the narrative implies a cultural desensitisation to violence; the play’s saturation of words result in a decrease in meaning and comprehension from a viewer’s perspective.
The latter half of Big Guns includes moments that are extraordinarily powerful, particularly when the spotlight is projected from the stage to the audience, prompting every individual to reflect on their own complex relationship with the mediation of violence through capitalism, fiction, and imagination alike. On the whole, it feels as though the script may be better suited to text form rather than performance, as the fluid yet intermittent dialogue is too abstract and confusing to follow verbally. Occasional use of compelling and effectual lighting and sound effects accompany the dialogue and help to guide the trajectory of the action, whilst simultaneously stirring the senses, and this provocation of unease is where the play really shines.
Big Guns addresses the many different forms and mediations of violence that we encounter in contemporary society, but unfortunately it’s difficult to encounter any tangible meaning throughout the performance, which is a real shame for something so packed with innovative ideas and observations. It’s ambitious and disconcerting, but ultimately disappointing.
Big Guns plays at The Yard Theatre until April 8th 2017.