SPEED: THE MOVIE, THE PLAY
FRINGE WORLD FESTIVAL 2020
GIRLS SCHOOL, 17 to 25 JANUARY
Those with even a passing interest in the expansive repertoire of the Hollywood blockbuster will undoubtably know of the 1994 action flick Speed, in which a bus is rigged with a bomb set to explode if said bus drops below 50 mph. With its focus on simulated explosions, close-ups of Keanu Reeves’ smouldering glares and not a whole lot else, it’s certainly a vintage popcorn piece that’s just a little bit silly. To my pleasure, Act/React’s Speed: The Movie, The Play is entirely aware of this fact. Cheesed-up performances from Keanu (Daren King) and the nefarious Dennis (Gregory Rowbotham) make for an enjoyable hour of home-made special effects, packed-in references and a good amount of audience interaction.
Perhaps my favourite part of this show was the unconventional way it’s performed. Rather than confining the audience to theatre seating it sets us up right in the middle of the action: the bus itself. To watch the whole thing we had to look to the front, turn to the back, get off and on the bus and include ourselves in the play itself through the impressively smooth ‘work orders’ mechanic, in which actors would hold up slips of paper with instructions on them for selected audience members to follow. Sat near the front, I witnessed a scripted interaction in which an actor (a tourist who melted wonderfully in and out of the audience) chose a viewer to include later in the play by introducing themselves and offering a few lines of dialogue. I felt almost privileged to have witnessed this small performance, and am certain other such instances occurred throughout the bus — I’m almost tempted to revisit this play but sit instead at the back for a much different experience.
The level of audience interaction was generally kept at a good balance as well. It felt as if we had an impact on the story without creating pressure to perform, and on one instance where a pair of prop handcuffs failed, ‘Keanu’ handled the situation with such smooth hilarity that I can’t help but wonder if the exchange was scripted and we were all subtly bamboozled. There was a point where multiple members of the audience were directed to add dialogue in succession that I felt slowed down the performance a touch, but the benefit of including more people could be considered to make up for it.
Speed: The Movie, The Play is a performance of Hollywood satire that hits many of the right spots, with a dash of dark humour, good bad acting and artistic use of a shadowbox. Performed on a bus loaned out by the Bus Preservation Society of WA (of which a portion of box office profits are re-donated), its unconventional setting and eye-rolling-in-a-good-way gags make for a wonderful night out with a partner.