Speed: The Movie, The Play

Speed-The-Movie-The-Play-photo-by-Kris-AndersonMost of the action film Speed (1994) concerned a Los Angeles cop (Keanu Reeves) trying to keep a bus moving faster than 50 miles per hour so that a bomb planted by an extortionist/terrorist (Dennis Hopper) doesn’t explode.

Due to an early onboard injury to veteran driver Sam, a passenger (Sandra Bullock) had to take on his duties. Is this suitable fuel for the “high-octane, low-fi comedy” promised by Speed: The Movie, The Play in the Melbourne Fringe guide?

In the hands of Brisbane’s Act React theatre company, the answer is a firm “yes”. Last seen at Melbourne Fringe in 2018 with the memorable Love/Hate Actually, the company aspires to create “Pop-culture inspired interactive theatre and comedy”. Their commitment reaches the next gear with this outing, mostly set on a vintage (stationary) bus in Prahran square – a paved pocket tucked between Grattan Gardens and the imposing Pran Central building.

Written and directed by Dan Beeston, Natalie Bochenski (a gregarious “Sam”) and Gregory Rowbotham, this take on Speed snappily zooms through almost all of the major plot points. This was assisted by the ensemble cast, who also hustle to produce the visual effects seen inside – and around – the bus. In this cast’s hands, a violent sequence from the movie was often so overdone that it landed squarely in comedy.

Serious thought about the production means that, even if the film is a distant memory, the audience is quickly acclimatised to the setting and characters. Punters were regularly part of the action, which was cleverly supported by the players prompting us with cue cards.

With suitable haircut, our “Keanu” absolutely committed to his role in protecting the public, and the kind of surfer-dude accent we associate with Reeves. “Dennis” had suitable nastiness for the role and scorn for the police, relating to his backstory.

Quite surprisingly, “Sandra” will be plucked from the audience of each show, giving a lot of influence to a random choice. This may mean that the action, and opportunities for ad-libbing, should be quite different from show to show.

Despite a few preview glitches, there’s some very silly action in Speed: The Movie, The Play, which led to a busload of satisfied passengers. If Melbourne Fringe audiences want to see such original shows touring with large casts, then a bus like this needs some bums on seats.

Melbourne’s public transport is generally safer than LA’s, so (even if you have to cross the river) a trip to Prahran is worth taking. On various days of the week you’ll get extra value for your travel time, as the Speed bus is only a short walk from the So Soiree Fringe Garden, NICA’s circus hub and The MC showroom.

Speed: The Movie, The Play
Prahran Square, Cato Street, Prahran
Performance: Tuesday 10 October 2023
Season continues to 22 October 2023
Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au

For more information, visit: www.sosoiree.com.au for details.

Image: Speed: The Movie, The Play – photo by Kris Anderson

Review: Jason Whyte