You are a woman in Belgium, Ghent to be precise, walking down by the canal, and you see a man throwing stones at a duck. What do you do? This is the scenario around which Nicola Gunn spins Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster – a disarmingly odd blend of narrative theatre, philosophical debate and experimental performance.
Dressed in pink shorts and trainers, Gunn is a charismatic presence on stage, presenting her dilemma with droll humour, bursts of manic energy and a myriad of narrative diversions, which take us to such unexpected places as David Suchet’s heart operation, Jeffrey Archer’s champagne and sausage roll parties, Brief Encounter and Marina Abramovic’s cosmetic procedures. And slowly and deliberately, she keeps upping the stakes in her central tale, which probes the moral complexities of being good. When the world is so morally murky, how can we say anything is truly wrong?
Meanwhile, a cascade of movement means she barely remains still. Her text fires cues for her to circle her hips, contort into awkward shapes, bend and slide across the floor, peer between her legs, bounce in circles. Occasional bursts of metronomic beats from her ghetto blaster meld her choreography. The movements sometimes complements the moment, sometimes seems to work against what Gunn is saying. It offers a challenge, seems to make her more vulnerable and breaks down the barrier between her and us, particularly when she climbs into the audience and clambers over people as she continues her monologue.
And just when you thought things couldn’t be any more strange, Gunn appears in a billowing multicoloured cloak and with something akin to a bird’s nest on her head, and amid dry ice and throbbing lights takes the whole show to somewhere completely trippy. It’s rather marvellous in its strangeness.