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A Girl and a Gun/Portrait review at Camden People’s Theatre – ‘brim with creativity and conviction’

Louise Orwin in A Girl and a Gun. Photo: Field and McGlynn Louise Orwin in A Girl and a Gun. Photo: Field and McGlynn

Calm Down, Dear – A Festival of Feminism seems to have come along at exactly the right time. It was established two years ago, and with social media campaigns such as #EverydaySexism going global and Emma Watson encouraging everyone to join the HeForShe solidarity movement for gender equality, although it’s still a little edgy, these days it’s certainly more socially acceptable to describe yourself as a feminist.

And there are plenty of performers who are prepared to investigate the feminist theme. At the opening night, organisers explained how the event has been extended this year in order to feature as many of the contributions as possible.

In the opening show, A Girl and a Gun, Louise Orwin plays the girl, while the role of Him is filled at each performance by a guest performer who has never seen the script before. On press night Andrew Barton filled the cowboy boots, and, although his southern American accent was extremely patchy (especially when compared with Orwin’s convincing drawl), he fitted expertly into proceedings, showing a real talent for coping with the unexpected.

The fact that writer/performer Orwin is the only one who knows what’s going on nicely subverts the control issue she is highlighting. Her routine as the alluring, sexy, boy toy-style romantic heroine is disconcertingly convincing, but the unintentional comedy of it all is obvious. It’s not a perfect show by any means, but it is performed with real talent and conviction.

Racheal Ofori wrote and performs Portrait as part of the Camden People's Theatre's feminist festival. Photo: Tom Medwell
Racheal Ofori wrote and performs Portrait as part of the Camden People’s Theatre’s feminist festival. Photo: Tom Medwell

The second show of the evening, Portrait, is an absolute winner. Again, the writer and performer is one and the same and this time the power of Racheal Ofori’s script matches her impressive performance. The opening troubled, spiky teen could easily have been a cliche, but the south London, street-smart character is refreshing, bright and full of humour, such as the reference to her “politically correct” student counsellor: “PC should stand for ‘politely condescending’.”

All the characters Ofori conjures up are entertaining – the 20-something online dater, the American evangelist, the hopeful Oxford candidate – but it is her portrayal of the fat-shamed bridesmaid that is truly outstanding. If the rest of the shows are as good as these two, then the audiences won’t be inclined to calm down at all.

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The content may be a bit raw and the scripts aren’t perfect but this is a showcase for new feminist ideas and the opening night shows brim with creativity and conviction