by Adrian Miller

Yippee Ki Yay (the parody celebration of Die Hard) takes a much loved movie and tries to recreate it as a one man comedy show. In verse! What could possibly go wrong? The Clothesline contacts writer/performer Richard Marsh and began by asking him what made him decide to commit himself to a show which is a parody of a favourite movie?

“So here’s a secret – I didn’t start out aiming to write a parody. In the midst of lockdown, I was doing my best to home-school my kids while trying in my limited spare time to keep writing a play which was basically very sad. And I realised that I didn’t want want to be telling a sad story right then. I wanted to write something with as much joy, as much comedy, as much light and heart and emotion as I possibly could. I wanted to celebrate life and make the audience laugh their arses off. “I realised it was time for something I’d been musing on for years. Ever since I started doing poetry, I’d dreamt of telling the seemingly most un-poetry-able story via poetry. What seems like the opposite of poetry? An action movie. What’s the greatest action movie? Obviously, Die Hard.
“My shows tend to spring from something that makes me laugh. With Yippee Ki Yay, that was both the notion of a poetry action movie and my skinny, bespectacled, British self playing all-American action hero John McClane. When I started writing, I didn’t know if it could even be produced. Obviously I was aware I was writing something that paid homage to and riffed on an existing work, but I didn’t know the legal implications of that. I just wanted to write it for the sake of writing it, as a project I thought I would enjoy and would make me giggle during a tough time. And it certainly did that. Once I’d got director Hal Chambers on board, we set about seeing if this crazy show was stageable and spoke to James Seabright, who gave us the good news that is was – as a parody. James came on board to produce the show and we haven’t looked back.”

You’ve had some pretty exciting success with it so far?’
“It’s beyond my wildest dreams. This show which we rehearsed in my kitchen has played the Edinburgh Fringe, several UK tours, we toured America last winter and now here we are on the other side of the world in Adelaide. Unbelievable. And the tours have gone surprisingly well, given that John McClane had a fair few problems with long-distance travel…”

The show is done in rhyme? That must have taken a while to write?
“Some of the show is in rhyme, but lots isn’t. I love writing poetry and I find that, although people may be slightly unsure about the idea of poetry, audiences really enjoy it in performance. I’ve performed and MCed at a lot of comedy and poetry nights, and my love of that live connection between the stage and the audience is a big part of the show. It’s not stand-up, but it’s very audience-focused, fourth wall-breaking comic theatre with huge heart and a big emotional pay-off in the personal story I weave around the Die Hard narrative. You’re right, writing the poetry is very time-intensive but that concentrated craft pays off in the script and for the audience.”

What do you think is the main reason for the endurance of Die Hard’s popularity?
“What often goes unrecognised is the truth at the heart of Die Hard. John and Holly McClane are a couple in trouble. Their marriage is in trouble. Their family is at risk. They haven’t seen each other for six months when the movie begins. They meet on Christmas Eve and they want to get on with each other but they don’t. Like many couples at Christmas, they argue. Unlike many couples at Christmas, they are unable to reconcile due to terrorist action. But they are a family, like so many families, trying to have a good Christmas. Die Hard is a fantastic movie with amazing action, an incredible cast and one hell of a story but at its heart there is a truth about Christmas and families that I believe is the reason it’s remained so popular for so long.”

This is a solo show? But you play more than one character?
“Yes, so I’m often talking to myself – as other people. It’s quite nerve-wracking, because Die Hard has an absolutely sensational cast I’m doing my level best to live up to. It’s not an impression show, so I’m not doing John, or Holly, or Al or Hans directly, but I channel them and bring an essence of them with a twist of me. So if you’ve ever thought to yourself, ‘What would Bruce Willis’s John McClane be like when channelled through a skinny, bespectacled British guy?’ then it’s time to come along and see for yourself.”

Do I need to have seen Die Hard to appreciate this show?
“No. There’s definitely things you will get if you’re familiar with the film that you won’t if you’re not, but in the show I tell the story of Die Hard afresh for people who haven’t seen it before. Very often couples or groups of friends will come where some are big Die Hard fans and some aren’t and I wanted to make sure it was enjoyable for everyone. People have ranged from hardcore fans (wearing Die Hard merchandise) to complete newcomers. After the first preview someone said, ‘I haven’t seen Die Hard, but I feel like I have now’, which was rather lovely.”

Does turning Die Hard into a comedy make fun of its reputation or enhance it?
Die Hard doesn’t need me to enhance its reputation. It’s as beloved as it is because it’s an absolutely brilliant movie and it doesn’t need my help! I do have a lot of fun with it, but I wrote the play I’d want to see as a fan of the movie. It’s a celebration of the film, telling the story of Die Hard interspersed with the tale of two Die Hard fans and their journey through life. In writing the play, I reflected on how my relationship with Die Hard has changed as I’ve got older. When I first saw the film, on VHS, too young for an eighteen movie, I saw it as a hero kicking ass. Rewatching it now, in mid-life, with children of my own, it’s clearly about a married couple trying to reunite despite their differences. I’m trying to retell the movie I’m a fan of while also capturing the experience of being a fan of that movie. One story takes one night and the other a lifetime.”

How do you compensate for the difference in the budget for the movie as opposed to your show?
“You’ve hit on a crucial aspect of the show. We give you all the stunts and classic moments of Die Hard and there’s a lot of comedy in recreating those with one bloke and a handful of props. The audience is part of imagining these moments and collectively deciding to buy into the silliness and there is great joy in that. It’s a very theatrical piece of theatre.”

What do you imagine Bruce Willis would think of your performance?
“Bruce’s dementia diagnosis is incredibly sad. Absolutely the least important consequence of his illness is that he won’t ever be coming to see our show. However, we have had a brush with the people who made Die Hard – I got to perform the play to one of the screenwriters. In June last year, I performed to Steven E. de Souza at the Albert Hall as part of the London Action Festival. I was very nervous, but Steven was an absolute gent, very kind and gracious and very generous in his praise for the show, which of course wouldn’t exist if not for him.”

Are there any other movies you’re thinking about parodying at the moment?
“Audiences members often ask me that – many with their own suggestions of movies they’d like me to retell! I do have a couple I’m mulling on – it’s such a fun and joyful experience, performing this show, and I’d love to do more – but I have other things I’m also working on.”

What do you think people will enjoy most about Yippee Ki Yay?
“What I consistently get from people after shows is that they love all the Die Hard stuff and the big comic moments but they found the show much more moving than they expected, both in the Die Hard and the personal stories. It’s that combination of emotion and belly laughs that I really love both as an audience member and as a writer and it seems to be what people are taking from the show.”

Is there anything you wish to add to encourage people to come along to see Yippee Ki Yay?
“The theatre’s very comfy and the air-con is outstanding.”

Yippee Ki Yay (The Parody Celebration Of Die Hard) performs at Main Theatre at Adelaide College of the Arts from 7pm until Sun 10 Mar.
Book at FringeTIX and adelaidefringe.com.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.


The Clothesline logo

Print Friendly, PDF & Email