Edinburgh Fringe 2023
A Good Panto Die Hard does what it says on the tin: the classic Bruce Willis film is panto-fied to perfection in order to decide once and for all if Die Hard is or is not a Christmas film (it is).
About half way through Panto Die Hard, I give up on trying to decide who is the MVP of the cast. We are ushered into the drama at Nakatomi Plaza by the affable Shane McDaid, who is at times uncanny as our hero, John Mclane. For those of you who are somehow reading this review without a cursory understanding of Die Hard, John is in town to meet his estranged wife Holly, here played with big-wigged ‘80s sauce by Belle Quinlan, at a Christmas party in Nakatomi Tower. The party is interrupted by Hans Gruber, made famous by Alan Rickman (but perfected by the impossible Bradley Hawkes), who takes the party hostage with his eleven (twelve?) henchmen in order to get access to the building’s vault. McClane is the hostages’ only hope, and with the help of his man-on-the-ground policeman Al (Alex Stewart), whose dance moves are as good as her comedic timing, he must thwart Gruber’s dastardly plans. The cast is phenomenal, and the audience is lucky to be having half as much fun as it seems they are, let alone the amount we are blessed with in this performance. In such deft hands, the writing by Trevor O’Connell is able to hit all the peaks intended. The alchemy required to create this panto/action/comedy/musical, and get away with it, should not be underestimated. Add in superb direction by Victoria Gimby, and the absolute commitment to the conceit creates lightning in a bottle, not unlike when they decided they could make a hit movie about a shoeless guy crawling around in the air vents of a high rise.
I will cut to the chase here: this show is so much better than it has any right to be. Not only does it perfectly crunch Die Hard into an hour and fifteen minutes without missing a trick, not only does it flawlessly follow the Panto Code, but it also invites those of the audience who have no idea what either is to enjoy as well. The musical numbers, particularly the Duran Duran medley, are phenomenal. The dancing is top notch. The sight gags are hilarious. The acting is on point, and oh no, I’ve run out of superlatives. On top of all of that, there are moments that are genuinely moving. Something magical happens at the end and I damn near cried. It is funny, entertaining, and a fantastic time, but it is also a wonderful example of what theatre can be when you have the right people together.
I don’t know what else to say about this show except to go see it. Had a bad day? Go see the Die Hard Panto. Had a good day? Go see the Die Hard Panto. Feeling kind of ‘eh’, go see the Die Hard Panto. Go see the Die Hard Panto. And I will see you there.