TARANTINO LIVE at the Riverside Studios
“From the prologue to the epilogue the atmosphere is quite electric.”
Most of us live in the real universe most of the time. For over thirty years now, Quentin Tarantino has led us intermittently into the ‘realer than real’ universe. There are similarities, and connections to real-life sources but everything is “more”. Exaggerated, graphic, stylised, violent. The unreal becomes reality, and vice versa. Most of us have dipped – or dived – into (at varying depths) the Tarantino Cinematic Universe and emerged with the soundtrack still swimming around our heads. The films make us listen to the music in a different way. “Tarantino Live” takes the songs and brings them to life once more in a stunning, genre-defying, mash-up, immersive rock musical.
Woven into this bold, full-throated rock concert is the iconic Tarantino dialogue. It doesn’t matter in the slightest whether you’re a die-hard fan, or completely unfamiliar with the films; what unfolds before your eyes, and ears, will make you look at theatre in a different way. Most of the music stems from the era of vinyl but the structure of the show is built around the modern concept of the playlist. Split into chapters rather than scenes there is no chronological logic. The points of view, close ups, wide angles, jump cuts and crossfades are scattered around the studio like gunfire. The action takes place on the stage as well as around us and amongst us. It is relentless but we can’t get enough.
It’s full title, “Tarantino Live: Fox Force Five & The Tyranny of Evil Men”, loosely sums up the concept. The ‘Fox Force Five’ comprise a group of superwomen made up of five of Tarantino’s most iconic female characters as they take on the ‘Tyranny of Evil Men’ in a battle of revenge. The concept gets swept aside, however, by the sheer power and skill of the vocal performances. To single anyone out would be merely to reel off the entire cast list, just as to attempt to match the actors with the characters would be like trying to follow a chaotic medley of accelerated rolling credits. It is possible, but my word count advises against it. Needless to say, the talent on display is so much more than a triple threat. The lines between orchestra and cast, lead and ensemble, actor, singer, dancer, musician are blurred.
The disciplines are brought together seamlessly, the show having evolved over the last decade. ‘For The Record’, led by adapter and director Anderson Davis with associate director and choreographer Sumie Maeda, launched the show at The Bourbon Room, a small bar on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles in 2010. Immediately a ‘must see’ cabaret show, it was awarded the seal of approval from Tarantino himself, and along the way has been adapted in response to each new addition to Tarantino’s canon of work.
From the prologue to the epilogue the atmosphere is quite electric. It is simultaneously like a roller coaster ride but also not. It’s not Hollywood, nor film, nor musical theatre, nor rock gig. Yet it is all of those. It throws in the air different scenes from different movies, but when they land there is a kind of beginning and middle and end. But even if it doesn’t make sense – from the prologue to the epilogue we are transfixed. Motionless while our heads spin. And we could go on the journey again and again. It is a must, whether you’re a Tarantino geek or if you’ve never seen a Tarantino film in your life. At least you’ll be familiar with the (thirty-plus) classic songs. But not in this context.
Unlike anything you’ll come across in London at the moment, “Tarantino Live” is, in a nutshell, theatre with attitude.
Reviewed on 27th June 2023
by Jonathan Evans
Photography by Julie Edwards
Previously reviewed at this venue: