‘Die Hard: The Movie, The Play’ was pythonesque.
It was good to get together and have a few laughs at ‘Die Hard: The Movie, The Play’ at Brisbane’s Powerhouse Theatre. Conceived by the brilliantly cartoony minds of Brisbane’s very own Act React Theatre Company and presented as a Christmas play, the show was exactly what you’d expect: hilarious, over-the-top, goofy, low budget, and high octane fun. This was a show that made audiences more than happy to strap on their dirtiest singlet, take their shoes off, and say “yippee ki-yay mother f*cker” for a night of laughs.
If you haven’t seen the original ‘Die Hard’ film, 1: what is wrong with you? And 2: seriously, do you live under a rock? The plot is easy to follow. Both Die Hards follow the bare-footed, one-liner machine John McClane (played by Bruce “he Love Machine” Willis) as he is forced to take down German terrorists, led by the indomitable Hans Gruber, invading his wife’s office Christmas party. ‘Die Hard: The Movie, The Play’ followed this plot pretty faithfully in the loosest sense of the term. Act React Theatre Company, known for its pop-culture inspired shows such as ‘Titanic: The Movie, The Play’ and ‘Speed: The Movie, The Play’ prides itself on its lo-fi special effects, improved humour, and audience interactions. ‘Die Hard’ is no different. Right from the get-go as audiences waited in line to enter the theatre, a valet appeared searching for John McClane – the immersion began before the show even started. What followed was the valet plucking four audience members and putting them through some short one-liner trials in order to determine who John McClane was. The lucky winner (who thought he was out for a fun night in the theatre with his friends) ended up becoming the star of the show and was strapped into his singlet before he could say, “Welcome to the party pal”.
The show is, above all, a parody play, utilising several instances of reference humour, double-entendres, and turning all the original elements of the movie up to 11. From a businessman snorting a comically large pile of cocaine, to “Acme” bombs, and to the German terrorists getting progressively more…well…they dove into their history, as quoted by one terrorist, “Nobody’s ever been hurt by a German.” The lo-fi special effects, despite their ridiculousness, still held their own. A missile flying over the audience, dead bodies flying over balconies, and an exploding tank– for a low budget show, they sure went all out.
Watching the Act React’s cast continuously improvise from anything the audience, or technical difficulties, threw at them was something other-worldly. The fact that they could get a random audience member to carry an entire show with no prep time is no small feat, and they have the audience eating out of their hands by the time Hans Gruber drops off the balcony. The cast was all fantastic, with a particular shoutout to Hans Gruber’s actor, James Tinniswood, who gave probably the most spot-on impersonation of the late, great Alan Rickman ever seen. Seriously, the guy even LOOKED like him. He brought his A-game (just don’t make plans after the show because you’ll be there for two extra hours waiting for him to finish his sentence in true Rickman fashion). Another stand-out cast member was the valet, who doubled as audience-McClane’s inner monologue and was able to quip his way around any unintentional mistake the action hero made.
Along with the lo-fi practical effects, Act React was able to successfully utilise all the technical devices that Powerhouse has at its disposal. It juggled sound effects such as explosions and well-timed music, as well as flashing lighting cues and projections, all while trying to time this with the audience member who had quite literally no clue what he was supposed to say or do. Staging wise, the commitment to the setting was commendable, with the audience sitting at several round dining tables as if they were guests at the doomed Nakatomi Christmas party. However, it was a little irritating to have to constantly keep turning back and forth to catch all the action. It was a mild irritant if anything but didn’t hinder the show. It did have the benefit of getting the crowd up close to the action, as actors would speak directly to audience members. A highlight was Hans Gruber’s ridiculous monologue as he circled the audience like a shark, searching for another audience member to ridicule. Tech-wise, Act React held its own in an environment that would be difficult to control.
‘Die Hard: The Movie, The Play’ is a show by fans, for fans, and anyone who wants to come out for a night of ridiculous theatre. The Jake Peraltas of the theatre world will appreciate every joke at the source material’s expense, as well as the jokes featuring the original film’s actors’ resumes, but the average theatre-goer will have an absolute blast thanks to the comedic chops of Act React’s creative team. This hire-wire juggling act of comedy is just what the doctor ordered in terms of comedic theatre, and it really is great to take in a Christmas show. ‘Christmas Carol’ can eat its heart out. I got exactly what I expected out of ‘Die Hard: The Movie, The Play’, and that was never-ending laughs and surprises. I expect any audience member with even a sliver of a sense of humour will, too.
‘Die Hard: The Movie, The Play’ performs until Thursday, 23 December 2021 at the Brisbane Powerhouse. For more information visit the Brisbane Powerhouse website.
Photography by Images by Anderson.