Pros: Intense performances from a well-cast duo with fabulous chemistry.
Cons: Pacing – there’s lots of build up and not quite enough payoff.
Supping a delicious and locally brewed lager at the bar in Hackney Wick’s trendy Yard Theatre, my anticipation for the show was running high. My accompanying friend said that the show was sold out, and I was already buzzing from the teaser trailer online. A notice on the bar warned the audience that the show would contain ‘imaginary acts of violence, sexual violence, and guns’. I was super stoked.
Big Guns, an unsettling new play written by Nina Segal, is about violence, a society living in fear and a man with a gun. Debra Baker and Jessye Romeo play the only two characters in the hour-and-a-bit long duologue. The pair effortlessly fulfill the marathon task of delivering Segal’s well thought out script, which puts just about every current pop culture topic under the microscope. The performances are slick and flawlessly executed – there were moments when the stream of consciousness dialogue sounded like it was coming from a single performer.
Segal’s dissection of the modern condition leaves nothing escaping the knife. Whilst stabs at Brad Pitt’s dodgy war-tash and a ‘ten protein’ gyoza are on point, some of the lower hanging fruit, like vlogging and Ikea furniture, seems a bit dated. Other snippets, including a reference to ‘the truth, or whatever that means’, manage to feel eternal and contemporary at the same time.
The spartan sound and set design do well not to detract from the couple’s performance. The eerie, single note whirring away in the background creates the perfect level of tension, and the neat rectangle cut into a slanted stage frames the performance in a way that puts the focus on the actors.
For all the promise — the buzzing and affable audience, the enticing copy publicising the play and the warning sign on the bar — it was tough one for the cast to deliver on. Though the rising music and feverish quickening of the actors’ delivery boosts the tension towards the show’s climax, the biggest physical moments in the piece amount to no more than the actors pouring a bit of yoghurt on the stage – and there is no doubt they are capable of much more than that.
Author: Nina Segal
Director: Dan Hutton
Box Office: 020 3111 0570
Booking Link: http://www.theyardtheatre.co.uk/event/big-guns/?spektrix_bounce=true
Booking Until: 8 April 2017