Review: YIPPEE KI YAY, King's Head Theatre

Beg, borrow or crawl through rat-infested air ducts for a ticket to this brilliant parody of Die Hard.

By: Dec. 05, 2022
Review: YIPPEE KI YAY, King's Head Theatre
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Review: YIPPEE KI YAY, King's Head Theatre There are those who will argue that Die Hard is the greatest Christmas film ever. Then there are those who will, quite wrongly, disagree.

In a clever move, possibly designed to appeal to fans of the film and misanthropes like me, the King's Head Theatre has programmed Richard Marsh's Yippee Ki Yay to run across the rest of December. Tis the season to be jolly annoyed with the surfeit of Christmas Carols, Messiahs and Nutcrackers so being able to see one of the most critically-acclaimed productions from this summer's Edinburgh Fringe is a Yuletide treat in itself.

Daft as it may seem now, the studio bigwigs of the day decided to release Die Hard in mid-July. That's right: folk in flip flops and beachwear were the among the first to watch Bruce Willis' John McClane battle a battalion of goons and a scene-chewing Hans Gruber played by Alan Rickman in a snowbound Nakatomi Plaza. Willis has arguably made a greater impact on Hollywood's recent output than his contemporaries Stallone and Schwarzenegger: his mouthy underdogs and pastrami acting (both hammy and beefy) in outings like Die Hard franchise, The Last Boy Scout and Hudson Hawk would go on to inspire the likes of Robert Downey Jr, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson and Gerard Butler.

Die Hard's cocktail of high-octane battles and snappy one-liners garnered many fans including Yippee Ki Yay's Richard Marsh and his wife. Told entirely in verse, Marsh intersperses his recreation of the movie plot with details of how he and his now-wife met while bonding online over the its cult lines and scenes. As McClane struggles to rescue his wife, Rich dates then marries before facing the fight of his life to keep his marriage alive.

Yippee Ki Yay and Die Hard both have many incredible aspects; while the latter has huge plotholes, enjoyable overacting and stupidly fun face-offs, the former is built on a verbal delivery and aesthetics that far exceed my expectations of this one-man off-West End play. He really gets under the skin of McClane, inhabiting his grimy fictional world as he drops explosives down an elevator, wanders around on bloody feet toting an SMG and then jumps off the building to make his grand appearance.

Marsh's entire script is in verse in a similar fashion to Mike Bartlett's The 47th earlier this year. Peppered with grit, wit and clever bon mots, you can't help but hang onto the rhythm and rhymes. This ex-poetry slam champion expertly throws shade on some of the movie's more ridiculous aspects - especially Rickman's "German from RADA" impersonation - and wittily brings to life the entire cast including McClane's wife and colleagues, various Teutonic baddies and the poor chauffeur who spends almost the entire film sitting in a parking lot. Sure, some of the accents run astray but if Rickman can get away with it, why can't Marsh?

As the band Extreme told us the year after Die Hard was released, it takes more than words. Hal Chambers (director) and Emma Webb (associate director/movement) do an epic of job driving the two very tonally different and intertwining stories, giving both their own dimensions and energy. The aesthetic aspects - especially Robbie Butler's atmospheric lighting and Ben Hudson's cinematic sound - are superbly deployed to build tension and add humour.

The use of teddybears to represent henchmen, the dirty vest smeared with blood and the realistic effects as we envisage punches landing, bullets flying and a body crashing onto a police car all add gleeful layers. Even if this play ends on a well-worn trope, that's hardly a criticism and is keeping with the source material: McClane's final victory is inevitable from the off but his journey there is what ultimately what makes the film - and Yippee Ki Yay - a real highlight of this Christmas season.

Yippee Ki Yay continues at the Kings Head Theatre until 31 December.

Photo Credit: Rob Penn

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