Yipee-ki-yay yule

Die Hard: The Move, The Play (Act/React)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Turbine Platform

November 23 – December 1

“Die Hard” is the mother of all Christmas action movies, spawning a five-film franchise, yet even if audience members have not seen the classic since its 1988 cinema release, familiarity soon returns through the meta merriment that is Act/React’s “Die Hard: The Movie, The Play”, whose debut features as part of Brisbane Powerhouse’s Wonderland festival.

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It’s year’s end in 1988 and the Nakatomi company’s employees are gathered at their annual Christmas party at LA’s Nakatomi Plaza when terrorists hijack the celebrations. As party guests, the show’s audience members are front and centre to the unfolding action as white-singlet-clad New York cop John McClane (who just wants to patch things up with his semi-estranged corporate wife Holly), with some help from the father from television sitcom “Family Matters” as his main connection, via walkie-talkie, with the outer world, saves the day and delivers some memorable one-liners, such is the inventively interactive nature of the show.

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In Act/React tradition, the a lot of the pop-culture-inspired show’s humour is site specific in its nature. Brisbane Powerhouse’s Turbine Platform works well as Los Angeles’ Nakatomi Plaza, allowing for plot play-out all around, including above, the audience, but also by allowing containment of the action’s scope to a single space. Though this adds interest, energy still ebbs and flows more than in the company’s earlier works. Wheras in “Speed the Movie the Play” and “Titanic The Movie The Play”, audience members were chosen to assume the roles made famous by Sandra Bullock and Kate Winslet, picking someone to play the primary part of John McClane represents a significant variable. The company’s performers are earnest in their responsiveness but the result is far from the hilarity of the company’s previous shows. Still, there is much humour to this production; its inter-textual references and pop-culture nods alone are enough to engage audience members.

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Accommodation of technical challenges is, as always, a highlight, as sophisticated special effects of full apocalyptic fire are given the low-fi treatment, meaning that we still, for example, see our protagonist iconically hiding in the elevator shaft (of sorts) to take down smooth-talking renegade German extremist Hans Gruber (overly-accented in a very Alan Rickman way, in tribute to the actor’s movie debut in the role).

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There is a nurtured appeal to the collective experience of the audience, authentic to the premise of being joined together in Christmas party celebration, as the performers make their way around audience tables in pre-show mingle with guests. It’s all very supportive as people are invited to play roles in the story, or even just to hold props, and especially as everyone unites to provide the soundtrack of ‘Ode to Joy’ from Beethoven’s Ninth as the terrorists near their target.

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“Die Hard: The Move, The Play” is a fitting festival show, a bit rough around its edges but with a communal comic appeal, making it a wonderful addition to this year’s Wonderland festival line-up. Its festive face off of shootouts, explosions and smart-alec catchphrases doesn’t take itself too seriously, making it an ideal light-hearted escape from the busy yuletide season.

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