Reservoir Dogs

JOE GOODMAN really gets into a free production of Tarantino’s classic.

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Pembroke New Cellars, 9.30 PM, March 4th-8th, free.

My best friend at school was a massive Tarantino fan but I always just thought he was a bit of a psychopath (Tarantino that is, not my friend). It’s probably a question that’s going to surround him for the rest of his life, but there’s also no doubt a certain genius to his work. When he released Reservoir Dogs in 1992, it was a cinema debut to mark the start of a trajectory ending in cult celebrity status and (behind perhaps only Atilla the Hun) the world’s most famous sadist.

He understands cinema though – that’s one thing for sure. Before he put up his mortgage to make Reservoir Dogs, he famously worked in a video store, watching films all day behind the counter and amassing the huge databank of knowledge that resulted in his postmodern style. His films are about humour as much as they are about shock value – and it’s this contradiction that brings out our most uncomfortable side. But how does this translate to the stage?

The answer is pretty bloody well in fact. The dialogue flows thick and fast, the characterisation is consistently spot-on, and when the tension collapses I recoil with just as much horror as when I watch the film. The cast put on an impressive rendition of the heist team and it must be said the Spartan locale of Pembroke’s New Cellars provided the perfect parallel for Joe’s warehouse rendezvous-point.

This is a short play – as it is a short film – but it never runs flat. A couple of transitions weren’t as smooth as would be ideal and the light in the corridor behind the stage door ruined the atmosphere in the room every time it was opened. Apart from this, the cast managed to capture the black comedy that makes the film so horrifically gripping. If you were worried the gore would have to be toned down for the stage, rest assured there’s enough blood packs and slow deaths to make Tarantino himself proud.

Certain polish that was lacking last night will no doubt come with a few more performances. And while the actors’ accents occasionally faltered it never once detracted from the quality of performance. While the whole cast was impressive, special mention should to go to Johanna Ohlman (certainly one to watch!) who despite a few line tumbles, shone in her characterisation of Mr Orange. And to Tom Beaven, whose role as the torture-boy police-officer was one of the most painful and convincing I have seen.

It’s brave to adapt a film as popular and important as Reservoir Dogs, but in this case its not just commendable, it actually works. Credit must go to Patrick Brooks not only for his direction, but also for casting a set of new and exciting character actors.

This isn’t an ADC or Corpus standard play, but if you want to see some of Cambridge’s best new potential I would suggest getting down to Pembroke before the end of the week. Plus it’s free!