Dr. David Cowan
Comedian Robin Williams had a great take on the Second Amendment, “the right to bear arms and the right to arm bears!” It is curious though to talk about guns in Edinburgh. Gun crime is low in Britain, and the police have historically been reluctant to bear arms, and there aren’t a lot of bears in Britain.
However, heightened security for such major festivals and in places like airports and the streets of London, means we do see more hardware in use. Police in special situations have become more militarised. The problem of guns is looming ever larger.
Yet in America, the nature of the problem is quite different. It is in the American mind, going back to the origins of the first purpose-built nation. Guns are in the Constitution. They are also useful if you live an hour away from the nearest police help in rural Oregon, where Ellen Lewis the writer of The Gun Show grew up and where the play starts.
The play tells five stories. I won’t spoil the structure or ending, but I don't think it is spoiling things to say intriguingly a male actor is sharing her story. The play has performed across America, having premiered in Chicago, the gun crime capital of America. It has had different actors playing her part.
Vin Shamry is the opposite of Ellen in many ways, right down as it happens to the coincidence that both are from Oregon and he is from urban Portland. He is also a marvellous actor, and gives a performance that absorbs for some 80 minutes. The direction is slick, keeping the stories alive to the audience.
This play pulls no punches, but nor does it preach or bully the audience into taking a position. Ellen has her views, but she recognises the real tragedy is that people are so entrenched on both sides of the debate that no progress is made, and so the killing goes on. Children die. Domestic incidents end in death. In the case of Ellen… well, I’ll let Ellen, or Vin, tell that story.
Go see it. Well worth the price of admission and more. You’ll be stimulated. You’ll feel conflicted. You won’t go away with the barrels emptied, no blanks fired, the Gun Story has unloaded the weapon for you.