BBC Radio 4, 12 March 2011
Set in the Peninsular War, The Gun pays tribute to a group of
Spanish partisans who haul an eighteen-pound bronze cannon across the mountains with nothing but a handful of donkeys and
oxen. As they do so, they use it to fight the French, and to everyone astonishment (not least the peasants'), they begin to
win victory after victory. Soon they begin to think of themselves as indestructible - that is, until a shell destroys the
gun and punctures the grand illusion. The tale is an heroic one, showing how individuals can acquire both strength and group
identity from their association with the gun, rendering them capable of vanquishing Napoleon's crack troops.
Polly Thomas's production transformed the peasants into Welsh villagers gathering
together to fight the imperialist enemy (ostensibly the French, but they might just as well have been the English). She showed
how hitherto insignificant personalities such as Jorge (Scott Arthur) overcame their humble upbringing and attained heroic
status, chiefly through self-belief. The gun might have given the rebels strength - by virtue of its sheer size and power
- but the main reason for their success lay in themselves, and their refusal to give up, even when the military odds seemed
stacked against them. Even though they perished in the end, they offered a shining example for any underdogs dreaming of improving
themselves, whether through military means or otherwise.
I thoroughly enjoyed this rip-roaring adaptation of Forester's novel, crisply adapted
by Mike Walker into a series of short scenes embellished with the noises of battle - the sound of the gun firing, the whinnying
of horses, the shouts of triumph.