‘Speed: The Movie, The Play’ was hysterical.
Have you ever watched an action film and wondered what it would be like to be an extra on a bus with a bomb on it? Act/React’s brilliant installation theatre piece, ‘Speed: The Movie, The Play’ takes the audience on a roller coaster ride through the cult classic film from the 1990s.
After sell out seasons at Sydney Fringe and Perth Fringe World, this high-octane trip down the highway of 90s nostalgia makes an explosive return to the Brisbane Comedy Festival. There is limited seating because the ‘theatre’ is literally a bus and the collective of actors pop in and out of the audience as needed – meaning the audience never quite knows where the next one will appear.
Theatregoers are ushered into the “elevator” – a square of material on the ground, small enough to force the full audience to be in very close proximity. The walls are raised, leaving the audience inside the square, unable to see outside the elevator. Noises are heard all around, and suddenly, the elevator crashes. We are thankfully rescued by the LAPD officers – Keanu (Darren King) and his partner, Harry (Ellen Hardisty) – until there is an ambush from the villain, Dennis (Damien Campagnolo). Everyone is quickly ushered onto the bus and are greeted by Sam the Bus Driver (Natalie Bochenski). While the audience sightsees in Los Angeles, it becomes apparent that something is wrong – there is a bomb on the bus, and it will detonate if the bus goes below 50 miles per hour! Keanu boards the bus to help, but a loose passenger manages to shoot Sam the Bus Driver, leaving the speeding bus out of control. Suddenly, “Sandra” is plucked from her seat in the audience and takes the wheel, keeping the frantic pace, while the LAPD officers (King, Hardisty and Scott Driscoll) concoct a plan to get everyone off the bus safely.
This production takes nothing seriously, yet, the dedication of the actors to the story and momentum of the show is commendable. Since the audience is part of the story as hostages on the speeding bus, there are crucial elements that must be executed. The actors had strategically placed cards with dialogue for the unsuspecting audience members, yet the shy introverts need not fear the spotlight, as the cast are pros at picking the next star. Two key hostages, Helen (Elizabeth Best) and “the tourist” (Marselan Wignall) kept the action flowing by directing and assisting the audience in their participation. Outside the bus, the other actors were constantly moving, providing the feel of motion by running up and down the side of the bus with signs, trees, sirens, miniature helicopters and more throughout the story.
Written and created by Dan Beeston, Natalie Bochenski and Gregory Rowbotham, ‘Speed: The Movie: The Play’ is both spoof and homage to the movie that starred Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. It’s also brilliantly executed by this team. The production has a feeling of siblings recreating their favourite film in the backyard with whatever props and costumes they can rummage from inside the house and this type of comedy adds to the charm and humour. Every line is a catchphrase, a pun, or an impersonation – Darren King nailed the signature inflection and speech pattern of Keanu Reeves – and the audience giggles and guffaws non-stop.
Running only an hour, the cast’s energy is astounding, as they often perform two to three times a night – more of a feat in Queensland’s humid summer temperatures. Act/React have also turned their particular style to other film classics, including ‘Titanic’ and ‘Die Hard’. Paired with a cold beverage and a host of other comedy shows at the Powerhouse, ‘Speed: The Movie, The Play’ is a fabulous way to kill an hour that guarantees non-stop, action-packed laughs.
‘Speed: The Movie, The Play’ speeds along at the Brisbane Powerhouse until Sunday, 22 March 2020. Tickets available at Brisbane Powerhouse’s Website.
Disclaimer: Cast / Production Members working on this show also work for Theatre Haus, but rest assured, we always take steps to ensure our reviews maintain their integrity and are free from bias.