Yippee Ki Yay, Brisbane!
Grab your champagne, sharpen up your small talk and pack your explosives as you’ve been invited to the Nakatomi Plaza Christmas Party.
Whether you consider ‘Die Hard’ to be a festive tradition or not, John McClane’s hero journey is a Christmas favourite for many, and Act React is back to heist the Brisbane Powerhouse with their parodic retelling, ‘Die Hard: The Movie, The Play’. For both the novice and die-hard ‘Die Hard’ fans, this show promises a hilarious, action-packed evening for all.
Natalie Bochenski, Act React producer, writer and actor, says the key to ‘Die Hard’ being such an entertaining story to parody is that “it’s very well known, it’s a favourite, it’s full of larger than life characters, it’s funny, [Act React] bring more jokes into the show and it’s great for Christmas time.”
Since its celebrated 2019 season, the show has evolved slightly with changes including “a couple of different cast members and a few different bits of blocking.” The team are always striving to create the best version of the show and have “improve[d] the jokes that weren’t quite working as well, and [have worked] to… make the jokes hit harder. There’s also a lot more lighting with the new lights on the Turbine platform and…[cast members are] going miked for the first time.”
Read our Review: ‘Die Hard: The Movie, The Play’ // Act React
An integral part of Act React parody performances is audience participation. From being part of a group singalong, asked to read out a line on a card or playing the star of the show themselves, Act React creates an audience-centred show but navigates the awkwardness of audience interaction with much care.
The show begins with Dan Beeston as a chauffeur searching the audience to pick the unsuspecting leading man. However, all theatre-goers can be assured they will only be picked if they’re willing. When it comes to choosing John McClane, “they tend to select themselves,” says Beeston.
“Anyone who really doesn’t want to do it is looking away or looking at their phones. They’re like, ‘Oh boy that bit of floor is really interesting!’. Some people cringe away a bit, some people look up…there’s an engagement and you dip into that. You find out how confident they are, how relaxed they are and, most importantly, how drunk they are – you do not want them too drunk!”
Once the audience member is on stage, the show still supports them without breaking momentum.
“[The show] has been written in a way to factor in a response time from John,” Bochenski explains.
“The actors know what we’re hoping to get, and. through experience, know how to respond when you get something different. Funnily enough, the interesting moments are when they get the lines right and we’ve prepared for them to say something wrong that we can course correct [and have a joke prepared]. It’s great if they know the movie but, if they don’t know the movie, that’s also good.”
“We’ve given a space for John to shine but also a safety net. We’re about making the audience member the star. This is a really hard thing that they’re doing randomly that they weren’t expecting to be doing, so we want to support them as much as possible.”
Beeston adds that the audience member “is taking an enormous emotional risk, so it’s everyone’s priority to keep [the audience member] safe physically and emotionally, so they don’t walk away feeling like a schmuck. When they screw something up, the chauffeur in the background is like, ‘that was great; you nailed it!’ Everything they say is right and we have to work around them.”
Act React parodies are always dripping with pop culture references. James Tinniswood plays ‘Die Hard’ villain Hans Gruber (famously portrayed by Alan Rickman in the movie) and sports a flawless Rickman impression, which he has been perfecting for years.
Bochenski comments that “James gets the cadences. He stops… and adds pauses.” Tinniswood jokes that that trait works very well when they’re waiting for people to come on stage, “if they’re taking a little too long, we can really stretch it out.”
Some of the cast’s favourite moments include a pub choir-style singalong of ‘Ode To Joy’, the simplistic special effects singlehandedly manoeuvred by real-life SFX girl Ellen Hardisty clad in a green zoot suit and ping pong balls, and the audience reactions to their outlandish jokes.
“People need to unwind and have a laugh,” the cast collectively agreed. “It’s been a rough year. They need to be entertained and we want to entertain them.”
In regard to audience participation, Tinniswood notes “people are really out of practice of socialising, so having someone hold up a card to read out…I wish I had that at every Christmas party! It’s a very supportive social interaction.”
Bochenski says it’s a great time of year to do the show with a great bunch of people.
“[Die Hard] has become a Christmas movie – the internet has deemed it so. Even if it isn’t, it’s a fun alternative [and] It has a touch of festivity about it.”
Die Hard continues its heist of the Powerhouse until Thursday 23 December. Tickets are available at the Brisbane Powerhouse website.