Richard Marsh has clearly seen Die Hard more times than he’s had Christmas dinners. He’s here in his best Bruce Willis vest, brandishing a finger gun and a teddy bear, to retell the 1980s action flick in rhyme, from start to explosive finish. And why not splice it with the story of his marriage to a fellow Die Hard fan while he’s at it? But unlike Willis, Marsh won’t be barefoot: “Have you seen this floor?” he asks with a grimace.
Micro-budget fringe pastiches of Hollywood blockbusters are nothing new, but the one-man show format particularly fits a film whose isolated hero predominantly works alone. Marsh juxtaposes impressions of Willis’s terse, hard-bitten New York cop John McClane and Alan Rickman’s uber-baddie Hans Gruber (“the German who speaks like he went to Rada”) with episodes from his own humdrum life as a nerdy proofreader and knackered dad. In a neat twist, the worlds sometimes collide: Marsh nervously eyes his offspring as grenades liable to go off any minute, and after one violent encounter studiously dabs his vest with red paint as if cleaning up a stain in reverse.
Nakatomi Plaza, the opulent LA skyscraper where Gruber’s hostages include McClane’s wife Holly, is represented by a not-even-full box of After Eights and a watering can evokes its grandiose fountain. Marsh picks holes in the plot with a superfan’s affection, gets just enough mileage out of how the tech world of the 80s action heyday has dated, and rightly addresses Holly’s limited characterisation. An effective lighting design conjures gunfire with a surprising level of suspense – and one scene presents a bullet’s point of view.
Directed by Hal Chambers and propelled by Marsh’s rhymes, this kinetic afternoon comedy never flags but would probably be better served by a late-night slot. If it’s sometimes a little too neat and tidy in its construct, that’s part of the joke as Marsh’s fastidiousness is contrasted with his partner’s spontaneity. But whether you’re a Die Hard fan or not, it guarantees happy trails.