"The challenge in translating Pulp Fiction into a live play is to set it in one location," says the director Mandrepheus Androgon. He's talking about his stage version of Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary's cult 1994 film Pulp Fiction, which starred Uma Thurman and John Travolta, and had a script with more plot twists than gunshots.
Mandrepheus Androgon is the nom de plume of Andre Michael Davey, who wrote Pulp Fiction - Live! in 1997 for the Canadian company he founded, Purple Octagon. "It pays homage to Tarantino's storytelling," he says of the production, which went to the Edmonton Fringe Festival - Canada's answer to Edinburgh - in 2001.
For its London debut, Davey says, "I'd rather set it in England, and give the script a more natural feeling - and a natural flow to the words - than have the actors worry about the American accent." He cast the play in London, recruiting the British actress Zoe Simon for the part of Mia, played in the film by Thurman.
The biggest change from the original screenplay is that drug addiction has been swapped for a raging addiction to The Simpsons - the characters get high by wearing headgear that wires them into an episode of The Simpsons. The dealer, Lance, played in the film by Eric Stoltz, deals out episodes such as "The Vegetarian Episode" (when Lisa becomes a vegetarian) as a hit for addicts.
"It plays on our dependence on both The Simpsons and modern technology," Davey explains. "Mia ends up overdosing because she has a more powerful computer system and when she 'fixes' a particularly intense episode of The Simpsons, it causes her to go into convulsions. So we kept the scene with the needle and the adrenalin shot - which in the film brings her back from the edge of a drug overdose."
Davey aims to match the film's intensity by dispensing with a stage, so that the action takes place directly in front of the audience. It helps that Davey has acquired realistic toy weapons, and that the blood-packs have just the right mix of treacle, liquid stain remover and food colouring - "It took a while to get it. At one point there was too much liquid stain remover, and the food colouring disappeared too fast."
Some scenes left out of the original film, such as a fight involving Bruce Willis's Butch, is included in this stage version. "The fight in the film is an incident that we only hear about over the radio in the back of a taxi," Davey says. "I've always wondered why Tarantino didn't use that wonderful opportunity for a fight in a boxing ring? We are using karate, t'ai chi and tai kwon do, compressed into a three-minute live-combat fight."
Davey, a film buff who claims to have seen nigh on every feature film released since 1980, adds: "I've not only been enter-tained, but I have learnt my craft from it." He has completed a screenplay about John Lennon, and is not eager to take Pulp Fiction on a tour around Britain, even if it is a hit. "With 21 actors and 21 scenes, this Pulp Fiction consumes me. I need to take a break from it and focus on the other creative projects buzzing around in my head."
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