‘Die Hard: The Movie, The Play’ was yippee ki-yay.
Kicking off the Wonderland Festival at the Brisbane Powerhouse with a window shattering bang is Act/React’s ‘Die Hard: The Movie, The Play’. Following their previous successes of ‘Speed: The Movie, The Play,’ and ‘Titanic: The Movie, The Play’, Act/React are no strangers to spoofy retellings of famous stories and their latest recreation of the 1988 action classic ‘Die Hard’ certainly lives up to the hype.
For the somehow uninitiated, ‘Die Hard’ is the hero journey of New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) as he gets caught in a Los Angeles skyscraper, during a heist led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) on Christmas Eve. With the aid of some iconic one-liners, John McClane successfully single-handedly brings down the terrorist group. Act/React takes this classic story and injects it with a unique mix of audience participation, puns and pop culture for a hilarious Christmas treat!
Before the audience had even entered the theatre, there were clear signs that this was going to be an immersive experience. As the audience lined up to enter Brisbane Powerhouse’s Turbine Platform, the chauffeur, played by Dan Beeston, was scanning the audience searching for John McClane – an unsuspecting (but motivated) audience member who would then go on to play the tank top clad leading man himself. This set the tone for the delightful show to follow. Once in the theatre, within the two static stages bookending the space, the floor was filled with tables for the audience with extra seats around the perimeter, fairy lights and Christmas tunes akin to an office Christmas party. The characters, including Holly Gennero played by Natalie Bochenski, then made energetic small talk with the audience containing an abundance of 80s references and corporate politics to really welcome you to the party…pal.
Aside from the obvious hilarity of the script, that constantly had the audience in stitches, the second greatest strength of the show was the immersive expansion of the theatrical space which the Turbine Platform has in abundance! Be it via the actors walking through the audience, calling out from balconies above or just John McClane’s “brain” narrating over the sound system, there was no breaking the bubble. The audience was well and truly immersed in the world of Nakatomi Plaza. In addition to John McClane’s unsuspecting portrayer, there were many times when a character would pass a script card to an audience member to say the dialogue. This never detracted from the show or dwelled in the awkwardness that can sometimes manifest from audience participation. Act/React nailed the fine line in audience interactions between careful management and spontaneity.
Due to the pace of the show, the audience member playing McClane was never left floundering as his offstage “brain” always boomed over the loudspeakers with hilarious instructions and kept the show propelled.
The set was incredibly simple, but the show’s budget charm added more hilarity than any high-power effects could have achieved. An example of this is whenever there were explosions, a simple cartoon bang sign would be held up. The majority of the special effects were manoeuvred by Ellen Hardisty clad in a green zoot suit and ping pong balls, a real live SFX girl. A personal favourite special effect was the show’s response to the movie scene of a helicopter flying amongst the Los Angeles skyscrapers. In this play, audience members held up cardboard skyscrapers whilst Ellen Hardisty ran around holding a small model helicopter. Another particularly charming aspect was having the back-up police cars projected primary school style onto the blank stage wall.
The stellar cast of 8 (plus John McClane) should be highly commended for their unwavering energy and exceptional comic timing. Particularly hilarious scenes came from Marselan Wignall as Hans Gruber, who provided a flawless Alan Rickman impression and Dan Beeston’s off-stage witty guidance for John McClane as his “brain”. The rest of the cast all seamlessly transitioned between their multiple characters and made each role strong and distinctive.
‘Die Hard: The Movie, The Play’ is a fast-paced, journey which is equally hilarious for both the uninitiated and die-hard ‘Die Hard’ fans. Act/React theatre have successfully commandeered another movie and deserve a big yippee-ki-yay for their side-splitting show!
‘Die Hard: The Movie, The Play’ continues its heist of the Brisbane Powerhouse until Sunday, 1 December 2019. Tickets are available at Brisbane Powerhouse’s website.