Ever watched a musical and thought, you know what this needs, more ear-severing, blood-thirsty car chases and monologues about murder – well, your prayers have been answered. Tarantino Live has recently opened its curtains at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios, inviting guests to sit back and take in an epic rock musical inspired by the Tarantino Cinematic Universe (not to be confused with the MCU which has more superheroes and much less gore and dismemberment). Open until August 13, creators Anderson Davis and Sumie Maeda have drawn from the director’s iconic scenes, songs and characters to create an all-singing, all-dancing show that will delight Tarantino fans – and even get a few new ones on board. Read on for our review of Tarantino Live.
Our Tarantino Live review
Blame well-timed London witchery – or the pulpy world of Tarantino I was about to encounter in musical form being very much on the brain – but my trip to Riverside Studios was a fitting prelude to the show. Think crowds of suited sunglass-wearing men, someone monologuing down a phone and even (shudder) bare feet stretching right out of sandals on the tube, it seems Tarantino’s spirit was well and truly in the air. But that was only the beginning…
Once we took a seat and the lights went down, a stringy-haired Manson follower strode on centre stage, guitar in hand, and kicked off the night with a monologue plucked from the climactic car scene in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. That is until the rant about murder on the TV (“we kill the people who taught us to kill” and all that delusional jazz) is brought to an end by a dapper Reservoir Dog – seemingly channelling Tim Roth in two of his Tarantino roles as he launches into dialogue from Pulp Fiction – chasing the hippie away from the spotlight as the rest of the Dogs swagger in for Chapter One. And with that, the show has begun.
Tarantino Live doesn’t creep up on you, in fact in the first half alone you’re treated to Royale-with-cheese commentary, a torture scene and coke-snorting galore, it’s a heady pick’n’mix of familiar scenes. It feels akin to a compilation of Tarantino’s introductory and climactic moments, stitched together in a semi-cohesive but occasionally confusing storyline. Not to worry, the incredible vocals, dashes of humour and just downright no-holds-barred fun of it all quickly makes up for that.
A charismatic narrator-slash-pianist hangs out alongside the brilliant live band in the scaffolding above, chiming in every so often with a bit of guidance for Tarantino newbies, but the rock musical doesn’t pander to the unknowing – the show must go on after all. Besides, most will recognise the classic songs that spill from the mouths of the spellbinding performers – from ‘Son of Preacher Man’ and ‘Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)’ to ‘Hooked On A Feeling’. That’s more than enough to get your toes tapping and shoulders grooving along.
In explosions of lights and movement, characters strut and sway among the tables that are dotted around the floor in front of the stage. They give cameras a stony glare, belt out impressive high notes with an ease I am eternally envious of and even collapse to floors like puppets with their strings cut when they get shot. While the intimate theatre and raised seats are enough to immerse you in the action (the woman in front let out a scream more than once at the rat-a-tat-tat gunfire) there are certain moments where being on a table will up the ante even more. Namely, when a whip cracks through the air close enough to feel the wind swish across your face or the well-choreographed fight scenes have you dodging sprays of blood and the curved blades of samurai swords. On the other hand, the blushing among you may wish you were anywhere else when a certain Magic Mike-esque moment happens.
While Tarantino Live is a wonderfully wild ride, there’s a scattering of moments that will sober you right up. Those who’ve seen Django and Inglorious Basterds may be able to guess the slur-ridden speeches you can expect, which, while intentionally jarring and impactful on screen, wedged between songs in a musical they strike slightly off-key.
Luckily, there’s no shortage of crowd-pleasing moments. You could feel the collective surge of excitement when the infamous twist scene, delivered on point by the talented Tara Lee and George Maguire, broke into full swing – with many shimmying in their seats. A highlight for me and my colleagues were basically all of the songs from Django Unchained, brought to life with goosebump-inducing singing and emotional performances from the cast. Karen Mav was a particular standout, bringing definition to the term powerhouse, while I’m pretty sure you could bathe in Lifford Shillingford’s warm vocals. Not to fret fellow Inglourious Basterds fans, you are also in for a fiery treat.
All good things must come to an end. After following the badass women of the Fox Force Five battling against the Tyranny of Evil Men on their interweaving (and often blood-soaked) journeys, there is a rather satisfying conclusion that I won’t ruin for you. Ultimately, when you emerge from Riverside Studios and the fresh night air hits your face, you’ll glance back and wonder – did I really just see a guy in a gimp mask play the trumpet? I’m here to tell you, yes, yes you did and it was great.