From the Utterly Butterly cows to your local theatre group, everyone wants to play the colourful characters from Quentin Tarantino's cult movie `Reservoir Dogs'. Words by Matthew Sweet. Photograph by Darren Regnier
Anyone can do it. Vince Vaughan and Jon Favreau, the Utterly Butterly cows, Kenny, Kyle and Cartman. They've all taken slo-mo strolls in pencil ties, spivvy suits and shades. You don't need me to tell you what that means. Thanks to the violent exploits of a cabal of colour-coded thieves, the Reservoir Dogs image has become one of pop culture's most recognised leitmotifs, as identifiable as Mickey Mouse's ears. Not bad for a film that's less than ten years old.

Like all cults, Quentin Tarantino's movie has whelped its own mythology. The title, some say, is derived from its director's inability to pronounce Au Revoir les Enfants when working as a video-store clerk. Another story tells how Tim Roth hated his dialogue coach so much that he insisted she take a non-speaking role as the woman shot by his character Mr Orange. Other acolytes go hunting for continuity errors, pointing out that Marvin Nash kicks at the gas can in Mr Blonde's hands, yet in the next shot his feet are bound. Or that the slide on Mr Pink's pistol locks back, indicating an empty clip while he's firing. Or they note that Mr Orange's position on the ramp mysteriously changes between shots.

More imaginative fans get together to act the whole thing out in front of an audience. At the 1996 Edinburgh Festival, a gang of students from the University of Southern California fired blanks and sliced off latex ears in a school hall. In March, Two-Way Mirror theatre company presented its own authorised adaptation at the Starting Gate theatre, near Alexandra Palace in London. As you can see from Darren Regnier's photograph of Mr Blonde (Andy Cox) and Marvin (Richard Allancroft), it was a sweaty, ketchupy labour of love.

"Not ketchup actually," insists Adrian Ient, who spilled his guts nightly as Mr Orange - a process which involved Ribena, honey and black coffee. A gore-filled sponge concealed under his shirt was abandoned at rehearsal stage, but there were other sufferings to endure. "I broke out in a rash," he reflects. "And I couldn't get clean. I'd wake up in the morning with a Turin Shroud-effect on my sheets." n