Don't Shoot Yourself In The Foot

Palindrome Theatre Hedda GablerTexas-based Palindrome Theatre Company (which, incidentally, doesn’t read the same backwards as it does forwards) are performing a unique adaption of Hedda Gabler at the Hill Street Theatre in Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival… with a little last-minute help from a Glasgow-based production company.

The team from Palindrome Theatre had been commissioned by ReMarkable Arts to stage their reworking of the Ibsen classic, and flew over to Scotland last Tuesday to begin their run. Nigel O’Hearn, the Artistic Director, was confident that the replica guns they were travelling with, integral to the script, would be arriving safely with them at Edinburgh Airport. But when they did not, he turned to Hands On Production Services in Glasgow for urgent assistance.

O’Hearn says, “Finding a firing replica gun, or starter pistol, in Texas is like finding an axe, or a handsaw – or anything marginally dangerous but practically useful. When Hedda Gabler was running in the States and I had to obtain a firing pistol for our production, it took me zero phone calls and twenty minutes. I walked into my neighbourhood gun store and asked for a firing cap pistol. They handed it to me, and I paid for it.” As O’Hearn was not a gun owner, he asked what he was to do when he travelled with it or took it anywhere. The response was: “Well, it’s not real… So it’ll be no problem trying to take it with you wherever.”

O’Hearn accepted this answer (although he questioned the logic slightly), and the shop was content to send him on his way, after a few safety pointers, with a gun in a plastic carrier bag. “That is how assured gun-dude was that travelling with this thing would be absolutely no problem.”

While he recognises that he may be stereotyping Texans as cavalier with weapons, O’Hearn is keen to tell this story in order to explain “why I believed I wouldn't have any trouble locking a gun in a box, after showing it to some lady at an airport in Texas who put a piece of paper on it saying she checked it, and why I had full confidence that the gun would head with me to Scotland.

“For fellow international Fringers, let me enlighten you now: you CAN NOT take anything that looks like a gun into the UK, or continental Europe, with any sort of ease. Your gun laws are not their gun laws, and what you consider dangerous is not what others consider dangerous.”

Rather unsurprisingly, the replica weapon purchased by Nigel for Palindrome Theatre was taken away from them, in Amsterdam. He had a small, official-looking piece of paper taped to his luggage saying "confiscated materials." Nigel is not confident that he will see the gun again.

Palindrome Theatre’s production of “Hedda Gabler” ends with a gun shot, and there is a lot of action surrounding a gun. “As you might imagine, it tends to break the audiences' suspension of disbelief when someone has to pretend their finger is a gun, and someone else is reduced to shouting ‘BANG!’ at the end of a fairly dramatic play,” says O’Hearn.

He and the theatre group therefore landed in Edinburgh two days before their show opened without an essential prop. “Turns out, it is very difficult to procure a gun in the UK. Due to some laws passed a few years ago, they have become very hard to come by. For the most part, I think this is a positive thing. It does, however, become quite infuriating when one is producing an adaptation of a show written in the midst of the industrial revolution, when apparently guns were abundant and a playwright couldn't stand to end a show without a ‘BANG’.”

Fortunately, O’Hearn was pointed in the direction of Hands On Production Services inGlasgow. He called Hands On around 11am telling them that he needed a gun by 2pm the next day in time for the opening of the show. Although the company offered several delivery options, O’Hearn decided it would be less risky simply to come through to Glasgow and pick up the gun in person.

 “When I arrived, my desperation and panic was soothed out of me completely. A selection of possible choices were laid out for me. Hands On has an arsenal of prop guns and weaponry from all eras, and they made sure we had guns that would fit our production's specific period. All appropriate paperwork was prepared, ready for me to read and sign. I was handled with great care and true interest in my production. I received a full tutorial from Perry, the armourer, on how to operate the gun. Suffice to say, when I left Hands On, I could breathe for the first time in 48 hours, because I knew my show would go on.

“That is, go on without my having to stand in the back of the house shouting, ‘Ka-blam!’”

For more information, contact:
HANDS ON Marketing Manager Kirsty Cooke
Tel: 0141 440 2005

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