What do you get if you cross a long-standing family entertainment show with a blockbusting American action movie? ‘Muppits Die Hard’ was a madcap mash-up, a delirious combination of screwball comedy and camp 80’s guy flick that held the audience in its fuzzy green grasp.
Pleasingly faithful enough to the original formats, the performance transposed our favourite Muppet characters into the world of John McClane on that fateful Christmas Eve. That most of us know the plot of ‘Die Hard’ from its endless seasonal re-runs worked to the show’s advantage, allowing plenty of room for the absurd to shine. Overall, the performances were strong and the caricatures well delivered, with Corina Bona’s Miss Piggy soliciting all the affectionate amusement of the suidae starlet herself and Harry Humberstone’s Alan Rickman/Hans Gruber, suitably villainous and deadpan.
The performance did suffer from a slow start that made it difficult to immediately bond with the show, despite its many hooks. Another intermittent problem was that the bracing cinematic soundtrack did have a tendency to slightly overwhelm the performers, notably during musical numbers. However once the show found its stride, the pace remained relentless and the jokes machine-gunned around the auditorium.
On the whole, the comedy was well crafted and derived from many quarters. The puppets were nicely fabricated, with a very pleasing design for the inconsequential baddies, who became a joke unto themselves. The use of scaled puppetry delivered not only a parody of cinematography, such as long shots and close-ups, but also delighted their audience, in particular the miniature Fozzie, who was almost to cute to bear (GROAN) .
I did feel, however, that the ‘recurring long joke’ was overused. For me, there’s a fine line between a meta-joke (‘this format has been repeated so many times its funny, right?’) and an irritation. I appreciate the humour derives much from classic ‘Muppet Show’ fare, so bad puns abound, but after an hour or so, this particular comic device wore thin.
I guess the true measure of a show’s success is whether or not it wins over its audience. When the plot is lost, when performers accidentally drop their lines and dissolve into giggles, will your audience laugh with you…?
They didn’t laugh, they howled.
The Wardrobe Theatre’s next festive fusion ‘Goldilock, Stock & Three Smoking Bears’, an absurd merging of the classic fairytale with Guy Ritchie’s 1998 cockney caper, will run this Christmas and New Year at the Tobacco Factory Theatre. For more information and to book tickets for the show, visit the TFT website.