Die Hard Rock Cafe Müller - ChoreoCo by Footnote NZ Dance
22 February - 3 March 2018, BATS Theatre, Wellington
NZ Fringe Festival
Reviewed by Leah Maclean
Yes, you read that right. The work is exactly as the title reads, a weirdly delightful mash-up of the best Christmas movie ever made with the melancholic notes of Pina Bausch's Café Müller inside the setting of the famous chain diner the Hard Rock Café. It's a mouthful and an uncanny combination, but it actually kind of works.
Artists Kristian Larsen and Joshua Rutter come together to bring Die Hard Rock Café Müller to the 2018 NZ Fringe Festival. Developed with Footnote's short-term dance company, ChoreoCo, Die Hard Rock Café Müller is an unusual rollercoaster of equal amounts of hilarity, Bruce Willis spunk and lost despondence.
On entry, the theatre resounds with something that can only be described as elevator music or pleasant Christmas shopping music. The stage is minimal with an electric guitar perched on a pile of rocks and the word HARD up in neon lights – this, to me, is the only clear reference to the Hard Rock Café. Larsen and Rutter, who also did the sound design, are very much part of the action. They sit to the side of the stage in white shirts and bowties with a Christmas tree perched on the table in front of them. Later they will be involved in a shoot-out.
In classic Die Hard fashion the show opens with an explosion and the all-female cast of five burst onto the stage dressed in suit jackets, sweat-pants and singlets, and they're toting guns. The 2018 ChoreoCo is made up of Jadyn Burt, Leah Carrell, Tui Hofmann, Tallulah Holly-Massey and Alana Yee; and they successfully invade the stage like Hans Gruber and his hostile crew from the film. They dart around pointing guns at each other meanwhile shouting the word 'move' in turns. Excerpts of the film blast from the speakers; Bruce Willis' sardonic voice along with the deep and menacing one of Alan Rickman. This is meant to be a cinematic experience (the 20th Century Fox theme stuck on loop is very on the nose) but it's good to see that the dance does not fall short.
The dancers each bring different levels of physicality to the performance and they merge nicely together. There are powerful duets, lonely solos, striking synchronised group sequences and plenty of physical theatre. Once they find their feet on opening night, the women give it their all, commanding the stage and attention of the audience. The loud action of Die Hard is interspersed cleverly with the melancholic choreography of Pina Bausch's Café Müller – white dresses included. Gun shots ring out, smoke is everywhere and Pina floats around delicately, ignorant to the dangers. Performers are struck by bullets and Pina drifts by like the quiet angel of death.
It is an ambitious work with plenty of development room and scope to become a really rewarding show. It's nice to see fresh talent on the stage and to see work that isn't taking itself too seriously. Die Hard Rock Café Müller is some kind of experience.