Tuesday, 28 March 2017

REVIEW: Big Guns at The Yard


Terrorism. A word that not many of us like to hear and, yet, we keep hearing far too often – especially lately. Nina Segal's Big Guns is a play about terrorism and about its disruptive effect on the normal course of people's lives. She wrote it with a harsh, insistent and disturbing attention to detail, which made me feel uncomfortable and occasionally nervous. Half-way through the play, there is a spine-chilling scene where the auditorium is completely enveloped in darkness and filled with a daunting soundtrack. The two women on stage (Debra Baker and Jessye Romeo) are agitated and talk into a microphone over each other, 'There is a man and the man has a gun' says one, 'and maybe he's always been here. Maybe he's always been here, watching us'. For a moment, I feel a creeping sense of fear and I have to remind myself that I'm just watching a show in a theatre. When the lights go up, I heave a sigh of relief and I see a couple of audience members leaving the theatre. Perhaps they had to catch a train or, perhaps, they thought this was a bit too much.

The sloped set with a platform in the middle, designed by Rosie Elnile and lit by Katharine Williams, presents some original features. Initially flooded by a red neon glow, is at the same time a nest where the characters can feel protected and a cliff on the edge of the catastrophe, where they struggle to keep the balance.

The acting is static, with a limited use of the space and devoid of theatrical gestures. The employ of hand-held microphones – required by the script – makes the performance feel unnatural and slightly surrealistic, especially when used to distort the actresses' voices. The reason of this choice is unclear, the quality of the audio unpleasant and the cables running across the stage quite distracting. 

Big Guns is intended to awaken our fears and provoke our paranoias, depicting that moment just before an attack, where life splits and can head in two opposite directions: go ahead or stop. 'Was all this horror necessary?' I ask myself, whilst leaving the auditorium, finally able to relax. A note attached on the door – which I hadn’t noticed on my way in – reminds the public that terrorism isn't only an abstract fear, but a reality confirmed by the recent events. Director Dan Hutton and playwright Nina Segal were available after the show for any audience members who wished to discuss the topics touched by the play, but I didn't stay, too unsettled to find any reasonable question. 'Why did you decide to go ahead with the production just two days after an attack in this very city?' I should have asked them. 'Weren't you concerned about hurting the sensitivity of your audience with such a strong,
graphic play?' 

This isn't the first time I review a show about terrorism, but, whereas Khemiri's I call My Brothers or Stuart Slade's brilliant BU21 had a constructive message, Big Guns is raw, violent and a part of me found its timing inappropriate. Nonetheless, I must admit its well-defined role in mirroring our society and I believe it will be regarded by the future generations as fairly realistic representation of the biggest plague of our era.

Review by Marianna Meloni

Rating: ★★★

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