Secret Theatre London
Reviewed by Alex Foott
Performance date – Wednesday 6th October 2013
Secret Theatre London, a brazen re-imagining of the ultra immersive Secret Cinema, steps into the limelight in a bid to outdo its commendably original elder sibling. Over the last six years, London’s residents have enjoyed the recreation of cinematic cult classics that plunge the audience deep into their swirling plots, breathing new life into some of the most celebrated characters and catchphrases in film history. This somewhat unjustified theatrical version dandles one of Quentin Tarantino’s most recognised films before us, although the title is withheld until the doors to the performance are unlocked. The result is a crying shame, both ignorant of Tarantino’s overtly perverse direction and lacking in any audience participation. Combined with a cast who rather ironically sign their own execution warrant with the line ‘bad acting’s death’, this is an infuriating excuse for its cinematic elder.
Having received a variety of clues and instructions a few days before, the audience shuffles with bated breath into a dimly lit room. Desperately clutching our given aliases, the crowd unanimously recoils in confusion as we see that the room is split rather conventionally. A cluster of neatly rowed seats populates one side and a clearly marked performance space stares back from the other. Needless to say, the immersive experience we are all expecting evaporates instantly and, as the audience fidgets with anticipation, it becomes clear that this performance has been falsely advertised. It is a traditional performance with only one or two bricks missing from the fourth wall.
While this production’s title must remain a secret, it is prudent to mention how inappropriate a choice this film is for Secret Theatre London’s debut. Tarantino is renowned for his relentless tension and violence complimented by a spectacular cast yet the actors we are subjected to are unconvincing and disconnected. Harry Kerr struggles valiantly to haul the company through the plot, demonstrating an innate sarcasm fitting for his devious role. However, the character known for his unnerving penchant for torture is turned into something of a giggling schoolgirl at the hands of Sven Anger while Alexander Gordon-Wood transforms the ringleader into a bumbling geriatric, fidgeting enormously and avoiding all eye contact. This production is sabotaged repeatedly by its inexplicable deviation from the original film’s direction. Rather than the backstreets of an American city, we are presented with a British replacement that makes a cleverly constructed script appear clumsy and where each instance of gratuitous violence becomes an array of ketchup stains.
Had this production not been riding on the coattails of Secret Cinema, it would be a lot less repulsive. Despite promising an immersive experience, our readiness to participate is refused entirely and we settle for what is essentially a film adapted for the stage. Perhaps the most lamentable aspect of this show is the notion of such wasted potential. However, Secret Theatre London has achieved the previously impossible: they have made Tarantino tame.
Directed by Richard Crawford & Brooke Johnston