2001 spawned Universal’s biggest franchise ever, grossing $5bn: Fast & Furious. So it’s no wonder the studio wants to capitalise on this success and expand ‘the family’.
Fast & Furious Live is a £25m show which is partially stunt extravaganza, part scripted theatre and part panto. It premiered at the O2 Arena in London with an introduction by Vin Diesel and will now continue to tour across the UK and Europe.
The enthusiasm of super-fan and Creative Director Rowland French is tangible throughout his brainchild, and acts as a bit of an overpriced commercial for the franchise’s boxset. The films focus on a team of streetcar racers (amongst others, superstars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Gal Gadot and the Rock) who track down villains, all the while upholding sentimental values of family and friendship. In the latest instalment, Charlize Theron reigned over a team of hackers, one of which is the show’s lead villain. Elysia Wren stars as street-smart and car-savvy Sophia Diaz, who helps DSS Agent Dawson (Mark Ebulué) to bring down the thug. Wren and Ebulué try their best to MC the narrative and get the audience going throughout the interactive elements, such as putting together a car or participating in a race.
Whittling down the blockbuster franchise to the space of an arena requires intense precision by the stunt drivers. Undoubtedly the drivers are skilled, but the downfall of the show is that they never get to wow much with their ability. For a performance that is marketed and narrated to be the fastest, most dangerous and a ‘do not try at home’ deal, it is disappointing to have the cars reduced to driving in loops and at very low speed, while projections evoke the feeling of action (the cars are performing more of a ballet than any stunts). It might be much to ask for cars skidding on their sides, crashing or doing flips, but having seen such things on a much smaller scale with much less financial backing, one cannot help but feel slightly bored at the non-‘furiousness’ of the spectacle.
The real magic is the 3D projection mapping by Kate Dawkins, who transports the arena to Miami, on an airplane field or the Antarctic. Visual projections will start on screen (often cutting to moments from the films which show what is happening inside the cars) and then ’come to life’, i.e. when a submarine launches out of the ice projected onto the floor. One of the most spectacular moments is a LED effect where white cars light up in diverse colours, leave colourful trails behind and even appear to sparkle.
Audiences need to be neither petrolheads nor die-hard fans of the films to get enjoyment out of this show. Oddly enough though, it seems to be best suited for children, as there is nothing particularly fast nor dangerous going on. It remains questionable however whether someone wants to spend so much on what is basically a panto experience.
Reviewed by Lisa Theresa Downey-Dent