Quentin Tarantino burst onto the movie scene in 1992 with Reservoir Dogs, one of my favourite films. The dialogue-heavy script that completely skips the actual heist that the caper surrounds on is a good fit for a stage adaptation. In this instance, Matt Byrne has done the adapting in the Australia Stage Premiere of Reservoir Dogs. He also plays Mr Brown, just like his counterpart Tarantino does in the movie. Directed, designed and adapted by Byrne, it is obvious that he greatly respects the source material.
I did enjoy the show, but I have some reservations about it too. At the end of the day it was an enjoyable production but it remained so close to the source material that I'm not sure it offered anything new. I know that the film has been adapted before for the stage and wonder if in these other cases they have remained so close to the original. It's hard to be critical of an adaptation when it remains true to the source material, but when the gap in the quality of the adaptation, and what was done magnificently in the source material is as wide as it is here then perhaps deviating slightly more would have been better. This almost feels like sacrilege for me to say because I really hate it when adaptations are radically different to their original material.
Several of the actors did well with the material managing to put their own spin on well-known roles and I felt that Michael Coumi did well with Mr Blonde, and with the Stealers Wheel scene striking the right balance between sadistic and just plain psychotic. I also particularly enjoyed Jim McInnes as Mr Pink and David Grybowski as Joe Cabot. The rest of the performances were a bit of a mixed bag, with some just a little patchy.
A TV at the back of the stage projected images of where the action on stage was taking place e.g. an exterior shot of a diner when the famous and oft-quoted diner scene opening took place. The sprawling, foul-mouthed conversation between the men about to pull the jewellery heist at the centre of the story, hits upon topics ranging from the meaning of Madonna lyrics to the morality of tipping, and serves well to introduce the various characters in the story.
Outside of this initial scene, I'm not sure how well the functionality of the TV at the back works. I found the credit scene being filmed with the actors in the play to be a little self-indulgent, and found it awkward – it had me cringing rather than anything else. My partner thought it was funny, but we don't think it was intended that way. The problem is that that part in the film is ridiculously cool. Like, they're bad people planning a bad thing, they're smoking which will kill you, but they all look so unbelievably cool as they walk along. This was probably a lot of fun for them to shoot, but I don't think it serves as the cool introduction it does in the film. It's also iconic, and I don't know if attempting to copy it is wise in this production. Similarly, the acting in the film is phenomenally good. One of my favourites, Steve Buscemi, shows all the skill you'd expect from the man who is now heading up Boardwalk Empire (brilliant) on HBO. Then you've got Michael Madsen, Harvery Keitel and Tim Roth. I mean you've got acting talent coming out of your ears here.
It may also be worth noting that the crowd that is attracted by a Tarantino adaptation is different to the usual theatre crowd, and could even include some people who have never seen a live production before; if the people who sat behind me who held their own conversations, rustled plastic candy wrappers and sang along to the music like we were at a Rocky Horror Halloween Screening are anything to go by. While this was slightly irritating I do have to say that anything that encourages more people to get out and support local theatre is something that I can get behind.
During set changes there were songs played from K-Billy's Super Sounds of the Seventies radio show. This radio-show is used in the film too. It worked for the most part in the adaptation but there were a lot of scene changes, and for the briefer scenes it felt to me a tad overused. There were some that were carried out so quickly that I don't think that the voice-over was strictly necessary. I also found the gunshots from the prop guns to be incredibly loud, so prepare yourself for that too, and if you're overly sensitive to loud noise pack some earplugs.
Overall, despite the few issues I had with the production, I think it's hard to go wrong with a story this good, so if you haven't seen the film use this local production to get your heist-filled kicks. If you have seen the film then I suggest you go in with an open-mind and a willingness to enjoy yourself.