Ever wanted to live the 80s action movie experience? Be part of an elite commando fighting force akin to G.I. Joe or The A-Team and live out your ultimate action hero power fantasy? And have you ever wanted to do it all from the comfort of a small London pub?! That’s the central selling point of Schematic Theatre’s epic new production Viper Squad Live, which began life in Lockdown as an interactive online event before successfully crowdfunding its way to a live action setting. The result is an entertaining night for theatre goers and lovers of action cinema alike and a live theatrical experience that is not to be missed.
Based on the aforementioned event of the same name (which we originally reviewed here), Viper Squad takes a loving tongue-in-cheek approach to the 80s action movie tropes audiences all know and adore, depositing a stock set of characters and situations straight out of the Stallone/Norris/Willis playbook into the mix and blending the experience with involving puzzles and split second decisions that ultimately determine the show’s outcome. There’s a large table covered in city maps and redacted mission files to pore over, a rack of machine guns and automatic weapons that require a split decision as to their use, and even an interrogation cell down in the basement which holds a mysterious prisoner – all of this is left up to the audience to discover and utilise as they see fit, and the result of their decision making has knock-on effects as to the story’s eventual end game.
The show is brilliant and novel in its execution, allowing audiences to interact with almost every aspect of the story and choose which operations they want to be part of. From doing detective work and interrogating suspects to coordinating stealth infiltrations and defusing bombs, there’s ample opportunity for everyone to get involved and drive the narrative forward, whilst also getting the chance to enjoy plenty of clever movie references and a cocktail or two at the same time. The cast do well in steering events to the eventual conclusion, but there’s ample opportunity throughout for the audience to get involved and play around in this vibrant, exciting setting.
Incredibly daring in scope, the production doesn’t allow its modest budget to hold it back for a second, and whilst there are occasional moments where the joins can be seen, the story and characters more than paper over these cracks. Performances from the enthusiastic cast are excellent across the board, with each performer playing on the stereotypical nature of their character to a tee and finding tons of opportunity for humour during their interactions with the audience. Capping off the event is the excellent costume design, set dressing and sound design, which all works wonders in creating and sustaining that all-too familiar 1980s aesthetic.
An ambitious and immensely fun throwback to the days of big, no holds-barred action films, Viper Squad Live is a cigar chomping, machine gun wielding, wisecracking powerhouse of a show that wears its love for all things action movie on its sleeve, expertly translating that enthusiasm right into the audience experience. Don your best McClane vest, put on those Ray-Ban Aviator Classic sunglasses and head on down to experience that unbeatable 80’s action movie thrill whilst you still can!