Sometimes, at Fringe, you wander into a show with little to no idea of what you’re about to see. This is one of my favourite ways to do Fringe; researching shows before hand is great, getting handed a flyer on the Mile is great too, but every now and then there is really something to be said for just strolling into the nearest venue and getting a ticket for whatever’s on next. This is how my friend and I spent our last couple of days at Fringe, as using our Space performer passes gave us the luxury of not needing to worry over wasting money and take gambles on shows we might otherwise take more time to consider.
The Gun Show is the best example from this year. All we had to go on for this show was its name and the recommendation of the girl at the box office table. We knew nothing as we walked in, and still nothing as we sat down. Even if we had known a little more before hand, I still don’t think either of us would have been emotionally ready for what we were about to watch. There are times when a Fringe show utterly blows you away, and this was one such time.
I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration the playwright, E.M Lewis, for telling her story, for linguistically rendering it in such an eloquent and moving fashion, for being present and reliving her own emotional journey along with the audience (for what I assume is) every night. Her writing is straightforward, approachable, subtle, intricate, and deeply thought-provoking. It talks about guns in a way I’ve never heard any media talk about them before and a way, quite frankly, that more people need to talk about them.
Vin Shambry’s performance is a true masterclass of acting, boasting a raw, visceral emotive prowess. His ability to take Lewis’ words and story and portray them with as much power, substance, and care as though they are his own is phenomenal. His is the kind of acting that reaches into your chest and grips you from very early in the performance, and does not release until quite a while after his final bow. The decision to have a man verbalise and perform the personal words of a woman, a matter addressed in the performance it self, is rather interesting one that very much pays off. The reason can not be better expressed than how the play itself explains it:
Writer and performer, while two different people, seems as two separate aspects of the same individual. Lewis presence in the front row adds an extra dimension to proceedings; she is separate from her story, but she is there. Having an actor speak the writer’s words as their own is one thing, having the author physically present, silently watching the performer act as their mouthpiece is another entirely. Her presence is a constant element, with writer and performer frequently acknowledging each other. The two are able create a palpable mutual respect and understanding that is felt by the whole audience. This makes the stories of the performance all the more tangible and closer to home; it’s impossible to forget the stories are real when the person who experienced them is right there in the room with you.
The show’s message is an important one, and it delivers it beautifully. It takes a sensible middle ground in the ongoing American gun debate and argues its corner with eloquence, emotion, and a good heap of common sense. It’s was an emotional journey I was in no way ready for but one I’m incredibly glad I stumbled into being taken on.