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Secret Theatre London – Review

Based on the film by Quentin Tarantino
Directed by Richard Crawford  

Pros: Edgy and exciting. Tarantino is a big name to live up to, and this production does him justice.

Cons: The quiet cap guns used at the most dangerous and climactic moments were more humorous than murderous. The production has the potential to be more immersive than it is.

Our Verdict: An exciting new concept for theatre which is acted brilliantly, but could do more with audience involvement.

Courtesy of secrettheatrelondon.com

Tucked away in an East London warehouse, dressed in a costume and using a different name, I learnt the secret. And it’s a good one. But when Secret Theatre London released the clue as to what their London premier would be, they secured their audience there and then. The word? Tarantino. Which means snappy suits, fast talking characters and blood, lots of blood.

After success in the States with a production of Edward Scissor Hands and his own piece, The Diary of a Schizophrenic Freakazoid, Scottish director Richard Crawford has brought his exciting new breed of theatre to our capital city. Secret Theatre productions withhold the title, location and cast from audience members until the last possible moment, so when I arrived at the top secret zone one venue, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I won’t reveal the Tarantino classic that was performed so as not to ruin the surprise for future viewers.

The ten-strong cast replicate Tarantino’s characters almost to perfection, but with a spark of that addictive creative flourish unique to live performance. Crawford himself gave perhaps the most notable performance in the closing moments of the play. Engulfed in fiery emotion, he had the audience gripped in his turmoil with a delicious level of suspense. It was a shame, then, when moments later his death was brought about by the tiny pop of a cap gun – anticlimactic doesn’t quite cover it.

Sven Anger performed with a similar level of intensity. It takes a good actor to portray a psychopath. It takes an even better one to do so with such ease and enjoyment that the audience actually start to fear for their own well-being. Watching him splash petrol over a fellow cast member and toy with a box of matches had this effect on me and, judging by the winces in my peripheral vision, many of the people sat around me.

The location of the production perfectly complements its gritty content, and Crawford uses the long rectangular space to his advantage. The use of the sound desk as a radio booth right at the back of the room is particularly creative; the audience have to crane their necks over their shoulders to get a glimpse of where the music is coming from, which gives the performance a deep dimensional feel.

Where the production falls down is in its failure to use the exciting advantage its secrecy grants it. Putting on a costume and adopting a new name for an evening is a fantastic initiative with the potential to immerse an audience in a production on a whole new level. Aside from a couple of speeches directed at the audience, however, little was done to emphasise the excitingly personal element of the production. This isn’t a fault with the play itself – it was exciting to watch and beautifully directed in a slightly awkward space – but rather an area into which Secret Theatre could grow further.

This aside, the Tarantino production is a fun evening out in central London. With profits going to charities Shelter and Save Wild Tigers, Secret Theatre London is an inspirational initiative and a fantastic addition to the London theatre scene.  

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below! 

Secret Theatre runs until 30th November 2013. 
Visit www.secrettheatrelondon.com for more information or book online at www.ticketsource.co.uk/secrettheatrelondon.

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  1. Did the audience go all out with costumes?

  2. Went tonight and found it mediocre at best. The production had switched from it’s original setting to a British location and that was fine, although most of the acting was dire, lacking the tenacity, character, and cool of a Tarantino character. I and others spent most of the play trying to guess the accent of one of the characters, as it was inexplicable. Me and my friends dressed up as did most of the audience, although the interactive element was kept to a minimum and was probably just a cheap gimmick in order to pass off any resemblance to the more successful ‘Secret’ brand. Wouldn’t recommend.

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