This article first appeared on Buzzcuts, Express Media’s cultural arts blog.
If you have ever read a Jane Austen novel, you will know how easy it is for the author’s flowery vocabulary to subconsciously infiltrate your real-life dialogue. As far removed as our reality may be from 18th century Britain, something about Austen’s work transforms cars into “mechanical modes of transport”, and chips into “potato slices of notable salinity”.
In Pride Hard, Austen’s pompous diction romanticises 1980’s action thriller Die Hard in a similar manner. Gone are Bruce Willis’ concise punch lines and cutting insults. In their place are protracted – albeit hilarious – phrases, none as potent as “matriarchal fornicator”.
Such language complicates the already ludicrous Die Hard plot, making the on-stage action almost impossible to follow. But one gets the sense that this is intentional; players Rob Lloyd and Kelsey Gade wish to parody Austen’s excessive verbosity while mocking Die Hard’s excessive calamity.
As funny as Gade is in her multitude of roles – some of which are a tad racist – she is upstaged by her experienced male companion. Lloyd is a theatrical wizard, delivering a series of convincing performances. While his drastic shifts between characters can be difficult to follow, Lloyd retains a commanding stage presence. On the night I attended, he even branched out into improvisational comedy, making the lady in the front row regret her impulsive – and uninvited – act of audience participation.
Pride Hard’s greatest strength is also its biggest weakness. As with all eclectic mash-ups, the play inherently appeals only to a selective niche; it is only as funny as the audience’s pop culture familiarity. Given the disparity between the play’s two main elements – few fans of Austen’s work will admit to having seen the Die Hard series, and vice versa – there are only so many people who can fully appreciate Pride Hard’s hilarity.
The duo arguably complicates this further by bringing in a third pop culture theme (a children’s classic that I will refrain from revealing) into the final scene. But few audiences will complain about the sensational finale, which – if anything – highlights the fact that Pride Hard shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
Sure, Pride and Prejudice fans won’t cackle at every John McClane reference. Likewise, Die Hard diehards might occasionally find themselves lost in translation. But either way, audiences of both persuasions will find something amusing about this innovative piece – and if they don’t, they’re probably missing the point.
Pride Hard runs until 13 October at the Meeting Room, North Melbourne Town Hall. Full ticketing information is available on the Fringe Festival website.