Gunshow, Connor Macleod, Rondo Theatre, 6th and 7th of June
#Gunsh0w presents a tableau of hot-topics: internet fame and shame, gun control, racism and US politics. It’s a stunning piece of theatre, drawing together extraordinary talents in a powerful, and relevant, production, even if it’s not quite as edgy as it hopes to be.
Gunshow follows Gabe, a seventeen-year-old American, as she finds YouTube fame reviewing firearms on video. It’s a fascinating, original premise, which Connor Macleod furthers with a script that remains fresh throughout. The show’s depiction of modern online culture is well realised but not heady, refreshing in its relevance: there’s a genuine intelligence in how the online world has been captured for the stage. It couldn’t exactly be called subtle, but there’s great enjoyment to be found in its explicit displays of character.
Charlotte Claydon brings all of this to the stage with virtuoso command of lighting and sound-mixing. The design is punchy, using smart lighting to separate Gabe’s offline and online world, the ease with which the latter is realised being particularly impressive. The stage feels less a collection of props and colours than a seamless microcosm of Gabe’s life. The sound mixing is expertly recorded, using some well-rounded voice acting and effect: this, combined with the lighting serves to create an intricate parallel between Gabe’s twin sense of isolation and community. The only issue was when the recordings and live performance mis-matched, at which point things became a bit jumbled and confused.
Isabella Culver, as Gabe, was the cornerstone of the whole production. She carried the show in a one-woman performance that was, in short, superb. She made Gabe scruffy, brash, abrasive, vulnerable, compelling, and ultimately human. Her acting was beyond any amateur mistakes: clearly a lot of work and talent has been put into her movement, voicework and personality. I have no doubt she would have shone just as brightly had the show been three times its length.
For its merits, however, Gunshow’s closing scenes seem designed for shock factor rather than a natural culmination of its events. There’s a general desire to be shocking, and topical, yet by touching on so many themes in its one-hour runtime (fame, shame, guns, race), it can’t really do justice to any of them in a way that makes its pivotal moment warranted. The opening, middle and end all seem to give different answers as to what Gunshow is actually about, or what it’s trying to say.
Having said that, Gunshow makes up for it with a brilliant premise, lively script, intelligent direction, and superb execution. It’s fresh and exciting, and it would be a great shame to miss it.
#Gunsh0w is showing Thursday 7th June at the Rondo Theatre.