Within seconds of walking into see Big Guns at The Yard Theatre there is an overpowering sense that something very different is about to happen. The set takes up the entire width of the stage and is essentially a black, ramp that starts by the feet of the audience, and gradually inclines at about 30 degrees towards the back of the stage.
Actors Debra Baker and Jessye Romeo sit inside a cut out space in the centre of the inclining ramp, that resembles an open laptop. They are wearing 3D glasses, eating popcorn and drinking fizz. The 3D glasses inform the audience that we are in a modern-day context. The glasses also suggest Baker and Romeo are watching something. It appears as if they are in a cinema, but there’s popcorn all over the floor which they are also sitting on, so perhaps they are at home. Perhaps they are watching us – the audience, getting comfortable and taking our seats. It feels unnerving being watched.
Baker, Romeo and the cut out space within centre stage, are illuminated in red, the rest of the stage is pitch black. Occasionally a torchlight or two provide the only form of lighting.
The dialogue is rich, dense, pacey and spoken into microphones that are doing strange things and echoes with their voices. They speak in short sentences. Sentences that are not always finished by the person starting them, but by the person listening. It’s like a tennis game of words bouncing off from one person to the next. The rally is quick, lengthy and engaging, but difficult to keep up with. An overwhelming torrent of words are exchanged and images conjured that the brain struggles to process. It is moving too fast and moments of silence are all too infrequent.
The musical score adds to this tension and builds nervousness. It is eerie, intimidating, threatening and deeply intense. It confirms the underlying edginess of the dialogue, and offers a form of respite from it, in a peculiar way.
Respite for Baker and Romeo, however, is not an option. Throughout the 70 minute play, they deliver a skilful, energetic and brilliantly powerful performance of non-stop, fast-paced and unrelenting line after line.
Big Guns is a reflection of the contemporary information age in which we live. An age that affords us the power to do and see virtually anything with the aid of an internet connection, yet at the same time assaults and confuses as we try to keep up with the tremendous pace of it all.
Big Guns presents its racing dialogue as an allegory of the information age. It does this by impressively generating similar feelings of not fully knowing what to do, or how to deal with the deluge of information, while also posing such questions as: Why is trolling and threatening the girl who does YouTube make-up tutorials acceptable and funny? What does professing your undying love for your partner on a public blog really say about you? How do we negotiate the distinction between public and private life? Are we, or are we not, being watched? And what happens now that death, public executions and beheadings are all so accessible online?
I was completely blown away! The masterful script and direction, along with the evocative music, haunting lighting and the superbly executed performances of Baker and Romeo make this play, one I most definitely must come back to.
Big Guns can be seen at Hackney Wick’s The Yard Theatre from 21st March – 8th April. Running time is about 70 minutes. Tickets start from £7.50 and can be booked at http://www.theyardtheatre.co.uk/event/big-guns/#booknow.
CAST and CREW:
Written by: Nina Segal.
Directed by: Dan Hutton.
Cast: Debra Baker, Jessye Romeo.
Stage design: Rosie Elnile.
Lighting: Katharine Williams.
Music: Kieran Lucas.
Production management: Ben Karakashian.
Produced by: Martha Rose Wilson.
I am very grateful to Theatre Bubble for inviting me to review this play.