Euro heist as gruesome as a Tarantino gangster film
‘Reservoir Dogs’ has inspired a play about the brutality of the currency crisis
The arguments, hesitations and brawls in ‘Eurozone’ symbolise the crisis that has afflicted the EU over the past five years.
A well-dressed gangster lies bleeding slowly to death on the floor, screaming with pain. A sympathetic but hard-nosed colleague tries to persuade him everything’s going to be all right. Meanwhile, someone is being tied to a chair and tortured to the sound of loud music.
If it sounds familiar, you’re probably thinking of Quentin Tarantino’s debut film, Reservoir Dogs, which followed a gang of criminals in the aftermath of a botched diamond robbery.
But for Spanish theatre company Chévere, the violence and rapid-fire dialogue of Tarantino’s masterpiece lend themselves perfectly to representing the reality of modern-day Europe, with its economic woes, political imbalances and social injustices.
The company is from the north-western city of Santiago de Compostela. It has recently been performing Eurozone, whose structure and aesthetic are inspired by Reservoir Dogs, to critical acclaim and delighted audiences in Madrid’s prestigious Valle-Inclán theatre, as part of a tour of the Iberian peninsula.
In the original film, Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi and Tim Roth are among the hoodlums, with pseudonyms for the heist such as Mr Orange, Mr White and Mr Pink. In the theatre version, the actors play Spain, France, Germany and other members of the European currency bloc, as well as the real-life men-in-black: the IMF and European Central Bank.
“When Tim Roth is bleeding to death in the film, it’s a perfect metaphor for any of the countries that are going through exactly the same situation – being bled dry,” says Iván Marcos, one of the actors.
Violence and comedy
In Eurozone, the job that has gone wrong is the robbery of the euro currency itself. The arguments, hesitations and brawls that follow symbolise the crisis that has afflicted the EU over the past five years.
The play’s 90 minutes of balletic violence and farcical comedy are underpinned by the disturbing truth of Europe’s fall from grace.
Unlike Ireland, Greece and Portugal, Spain has not received a full sovereign bailout. But it has come perilously close, and in 2012 it requested a €100-billion rescue from the EU, specifically for its struggling banking sector, which had been recklessly over-exposed to the country’s property bubble. With unemployment still above 25 per cent and the main political parties discredited by corruption scandals and a statesmanship deficit, the brutality of Eurozone rings all too true for most Spaniards.
But the cast believes the Irish, and many other Europeans, would also recognise much of their own situation in the play’s satire. “If we were performing this in Ireland, the person who’s bleeding to death throughout it would, without a doubt, be Ireland,” explains Manuel Cortés, another actor in the production.
But he is quick to add that despite the hard-hitting content, humour is key to getting the message across. “It’s inspired by outrage and anger, but the action itself is comic,” he says.
The thin line between the two is all too clear when, in an echo of the Tarantino film’s most grisly moment, reviled Spanish banker Rodrigo Rato is tied to a chair and tortured with a red-hot brand to the sound of the European anthem. The former IMF managing director is left with a €-shaped scar on his stomach.
“We are getting something off our chest and so are the public. It’s a collective catharsis,” cast member Patricia de Lorenzo says of the play.
In another morally unsettling scene a member of the public is pulled out of their seat and given the chance to shoot the actor playing Angela Merkel with a replica gun. On the night this correspondent went, the shocked volunteer turned down the offer, saying he did not have a firearms licence.
“We think it’s the best way to talk about these questions that make our lives so difficult,” says Ms De Lorenzo. “We all feel angry. We don’t understand what we’re seeing every day on TV and in the media.”
Chévere is also performing Eurozone in Portugal, a country whose own economic and political turbulence ensures an equally sympathetic audience.