Firearms and Fingertips

The Black-E, Berry Street
Until Wednesday 31st August, shows start at 6.15pm

Reviewed by Richard Wilkie-Riley

The tagline: “Anti-Gun Crime play for ages 14 and up.” I rolled my eyes. Hard. They scraped across my eyebrows. Memories of performances and videos “4Kidz” inflicted upon my teenage brain during PSHE lessons surfaced like orcas of condescension. I was not looking forward to it.

I entered The Black-E, passing the inebriated man urinating against it's neo-classical walls (not part of the performance) and nestled amongst the audience sat around the central feature of the show: The hospital bed of 15-year-old gunshot victim Spencer. That was my last moment of smug contempt before, over the course of the next hour, my prejudices were dismantled.

The story centres around Spencer, but it's best lines are saved for the engines of the show – Angels of Death called Chalice and Brown. The play consists almost entirely of these two characters brutally killing time at Spencer's bedside in anticipation of their boss, The Grim Reaper (who is running late due to a suicide bomber). Although the pair are clearly anologous to pantomime dames – cracking jokes, mocking the audience and brazenly improvising – their relationship reminded me more of Vladimir and Estragon. In fact the whole show is structured very much in the style of Waiting for Godot. Brown often pleads with the intellectually superior but equally bored Chalice to indulge her in games or diversions; it is from this series of vignettes which we learn fragments of Spencer's immersion in gun culture and his complicity in gun crime. A bit. To be honest, the “message” of the play is buried beneath the comedy, choreography and music of the piece. Which is, admirably, how I believe writer / director James Shaw and the ensemble cast intended it to be.

It would be wrong of me to write for too long without remarking upon a feature which helps to extricate “Firearms and Fingertips” from the realms of tedious preach-a-thon and places it well within the bounds of exuberant and relevant community theatre: It's soundtrack. Which is performed from stage-right by IDA and DMC scratch champion DJ Rasp, the St-Helens based artist who is renowned internationally (having been a finalist or winner in many DJing competitions) and locally (through countless Liverpool residencies). His input is essential to the incessant pace upon which the entire show is predicated. The primary genre is predictably and appropriately hip-hop with occasional dalliances with dubstep, plus tracks by The Beatles, Nancy Sinatra, a remix of All That Jazz and one particular show-stopper in which he beat-juggles with Daft Punk.

The weak points? At about 20 minutes and again at 40 minutes in the pace lapsed – I couldn't say if the scenes were too long or if the actors were having a breather but it happened. However within a minute or two the rollercoaster was off again.

But to mention what is good or what is bad about the play is to miss what is my favourite thing about it: what the play is not.

This is a play for young people that doesn't patronize, stereotype or preach to them.
It's not lame.

The show is free but it would be appreciated if audiences could book their attendance in advance at
For future shows and info email or check Firearms and Fingertips on Facebook.
Music video: v=OaNT85f5wHI

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Comment left by Richard Wilkie-Riley on 1st September, 2011 at 14:28
Video link to the song which accompanies the show (contains swearing: