Die Hard Rock Cafe Müller

BATS Theatre, The Propeller Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

22/02/2018 - 03/03/2018

NZ Fringe Festival 2018 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

To show pop culture in charmingly bizarre ruins – that’s all we seek to do. “Now I have an artwork. Ho. Ho. Ho.”

ChoreoCo by Footnote is a short-term company created especially for Fringe. Once a year Footnote selects dancers from the renowned two week intensive Choreolab to develop a new dance work with established choreographers. In 2018, ChoreoCo performs Die Hard Rock Cafe Müller – a brand new work from Berlin-based New Zealander Joshua Rutter and ex-Wellingtonian Kristian Larsen.

Die Hard Rock Cafe Müller combines elements of three well known pop culture/arts icons: the film Die Hard, the diner Hard Rock Cafe, and Pina Bausch’s seminal dance work Café Müller. These things will each structure different aspects of the work: Die Hard provides characters and movement language, Hard Rock Cafe provides setting and architecture, and Café Müller provides an overall dramaturgical structure and compositional sensibility. 

These works intuitively mesh as exciting candidates for hybridisation. The intention is to gleefully smoosh together three worlds. We want to pull them apart and inflict them on one another in the setting of the Hard Rock Cafe, an appropriately desolate setting with its kitsch cultural memorabilia, trans-national provenance and utter lack of credibility as a culturally-significant entity. In this diffident realm we intend to blend the sinister, bland and beautiful into a reverent choreography. Make a work of derelict nostalgia. 

Given that Die Hard and Café Müller both represent turning points in their respective genres: Hollywood action films and modern/contemporary dance, both created moulds that were subsequently followed by many others. Both are, structurally speaking, masterworks, and occurred within a decade of each other albeit in rather different contexts. Die Hard’s major contribution to the field was the casting of a reluctant, schlubby ‘everyman’ (Bruce Willis) in the role of action hero. Café Müller explicitly staged the neurotic, obsessive inner workings of the post-WWII bourgeoisie German psyche, the damaged interactions of a generation blighted by deferred horror. 

What if Bruce Willis played Pina Bausch? What if Café Müller was set in a generic Hard Rock Cafe? Would there be glass on the floor instead of chairs? Autographed guitars on walls – lost sad characters ignoring shootouts – bloodied feet and guns as characters repeat endless loops –  slow motion villains falling into a Christmas abyss of heroism and despair. 

Performers: Tui Hofmann, Jadyn Burt, Alana Yee, Tallulah Holly-Massey and Leah Carrell.


Kristian Larsen
New Zealand based artist Kristian Larsen is a choreographer and multidisciplinary performance maker. A graduate of three of New Zealand’s key dance institutions (UNITEC-PAS, The New Zealand School of Dance, and the University of Auckland), Larsen holds a Masters Degree in Creative and Performing Arts. Larsen has worked extensively as a performer and collaborator with and for internationally renowned artists including Jerome Bel (France), Ko Nakajima (Japan), Hans Van Den Broeck (Belgium), Min Tanaka (Japan), Magpie Music Dance Company (Netherlands). Paul Pinson (Scotland), and istheatere (Australia), he has also had film collaborations shown in the UK and Iceland. In New Zealand Larsen has worked with many of New Zealand’s choreographic alumni as well as pursued his own projects including interdisciplinary improvisation ensemble, Shameless Crowd Pleaser with composer musician Drew MacMillan and initiated the highly successful Bangers n'Mash improvisation series in Auckland. Larsen works extensively with improvisation as a choreographic ‘major’, is a big fan of obscure martial arts, high fat diets, minimalism, hand held synthesizers and his electric bike. This project is the fourth or possibly fifth collaboration with Joshua Rutter, and third project with Footnote.

Joshua Rutter
Joshua Rutter is a NZ artist living in Berlin, Germany. With experience and training in dance, circus, theatre, electronic music and contemporary art, his work has explored choreographic possibilities found in the internet, objects, subcultures and masculine identities. His current artistic interests are situations and physical systems. He has worked with a number of NZ and international artists over the last 20 years, and in 2016 completed his Masters studies in Solo/Dance/Authorship at the Berlin university of the arts. He has performed his own work in Germany, Sweden, Romania and New Zealand. His work Tomorrow After All was one half of Footnote's 2016 season Transfer. Some recent examples of work can be found at: joshuarutter.com

Dance , Contemporary dance ,

50 mins

Weirdly delightful mash-up

Review by Leah MacLean 06th Mar 2018

Artists Kristian Larsen and Joshua Rutter come together to bring Die Hard Rock Café Müller to the 2018 NZ Fringe Festival. Developed with Footnote’s short-term dance company, ChoreoCo, Die Hard Rock Café Müller is an unusual rollercoaster of equal amounts of hilarity, Bruce Willis spunk and lost despondence.  

On entry, the theatre resounds with something that can only be described as elevator music or pleasant Christmas shopping music. The stage is minimal with an electric guitar perched on a pile of rocks and the word HARD up in neon lights – this, to me, is the only clear reference to the Hard Rock Café.  Larsen and Rutter, who also did the sound design, are very much part of the action. They sit to the side of the stage in white shirts and bowties with a Christmas tree perched on the table in front of them. Later they will be involved in a shoot-out…

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‘Now I have an artwork. Ho. Ho. Ho.’

Review by Donna Banicevich Gera 24th Feb 2018

A few years ago a good friend said to me ‘if we didn’t have artists in the world we’d all be shooting each other’. Last night at BATS Theatre, on The Propeller Stage, those words came back to haunt me. Die Hard Rock Café Muller is a dance/sound theatre performance choreographed by New Zealand based artist Kristian Larsen, and Joshua Rutter a New Zealand artist living in Berlin, Germany. What a formable pair these two creators are. Together they have developed a work that weaves a commentary on contemporary experience in today’s world with visceral impact and lasting, if not disturbing, impact.

The piece takes place on a simple blank stage. In one corner four large rocks are stacked together under a blue neon sigh ‘Hard’. Between the rocks rests a bright red guitar. If you think this sounds serene, get ready. ‘We’re in’ screams out jolting me in my seat as gunfire ricochets off the surrounding walls and smoke fills the room. The menacing expressions of the shooters stare blankly at us. You get the feeling ‘they don’t care’ if we’re all scared half to death.

If you love Bruce Willis and the iconic film Die Hard, have ever ventured into a Hard Rock Café, or been privy to the poignant dance work of Pina Bausch, then this work is a must see. You get to experience all three. Within seconds you’re pulled in with a vengeance. It is dark.

John McLean’s voice overdrives us full speed into the situation of a hostile take-over. You feel it.

And then it changes. The lighting and music technicians are suddenly wearing Santa hats, it’s Christmas, and the sounds of ‘Let it Snow’ lightens the pace. All around me people are smiling in their seats. This is pure entertainment at its best.

But it’s not over yet. Soon we’re transported to another level. I hear smashing plates and follow the repetitions of movement from a skilled cast in a tightly choreographed routine. They’re falling, convulsing, and hitting the floor and the walls with a thud. Somehow they trust each other.  I’m reminded of violence in the home and the suffering that follows these actions. It really is a solemn place to be. Smoke is puffing forth and the ‘Hard’ neon sign begins flashing in time to a pulsating beat.

The cast of Jadyn Burt, Leah Carrell, Tui Hofmann, Tallulah Holly-Massey, and Alana Yee show no mercy. They are all equally mesmerising in their performance. Each dancer is like a staunch, durable, resilient rock that builds upon the thought-provoking and emotionally powerful snapshot of life in our world today. Yes – pop culture in ruins.

The colour palate is of black and white showing shades of grey in between – and that’s how it is.

This performance by ChoreoCo, a short-term company created especially for the New Zealand Fringe Festival, is a credit to Footnote New Zealand Dance. It really is worth seeing.


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The promise could be deepened

Review by Patrick Davies 24th Feb 2018

I’m a self-confessed Bausch fan and I haven’t seen Die Hard [the film] more times than necessary, though that number is still in dispute. I have yet to experience a Hard Rock Cafe in the flesh as opposed to its virtual presence. Footnote Dance Company’s lab fusing of these three into one nexus is an interesting gambit.

Book-ended by choric work that has an improvised air to it, albeit one of game playing, the evening’s work is in sections mostly comprised of memes and tropes lifted from all three. Perhaps because of my lack of HR Cafe experience, I find it hard to see in the movement but it’s cleanly and plainly there in the form of the ubiquitous rock guitar on display. And rocks. Rocks under the guitar. I imagine they’re pretty hard.

Brynne Tasker-Poland’s sparingly good lights cut across the limnal space between the genres, partly by the glare of fluorescent lights placed vertically on the walls like the glare of other display cases, and partly by their skilled use conveying the dyspeptic inner life of the classic Bausch supplicant pose: dancers in white dress (uncredited), wrists presented with jostling movements. These ‘borrowings’ work extremely well when followed by what I will now call the ‘Gruber Manoeuvre’: the same pose repurposed as the head comes down and the body twists round to present us with Alan Rickman’s classic face.  

Kristian Larsen and Joshua Rutters’ sound design is everything you might expect: part quotes from the film, part excerpts used by Bausch, though I would like to see some more development in the mash-up. There is promise in the use of the famous ground bass from Purcell’s ‘When I Am Laid’, providing some staccato stabs in other Die Hard segments.

On opening night, there seems to be a hesitancy from the dancers at the start as if they are unsure how we might respond but they quickly fall into their varied characterisations. I really like that each dancer gives a different take of costume and physicality that works with and against their individual physiognomy. The variance across the cast provides more depth by allowing individuals to shine through rather than just be bodies in space.

I would have liked for Kristian Larsen to have had more time to deepen the promise of the advertising. I could recognise many elements of McClane, Gruber and Pina, I could take in the placement of some tropes and attitudes beside and within, but I don’t really feel the development that the piece promisingly holds. This may be tinged with the sense that I was unaware it was a choreo-lab as opposed to a fully formed piece. I don’t read the programme until after as I prefer to see work standing without explanation.

I’d like to see Die Hard Rock Cafe Mueller progress past its two-week rehearsals to something more meaningfully thought through. I have a problem with a man coming in at the last moment to save the women. Yes, I understand the Bausch reference – treating the victims as chairs – but I think it has a harder meaning than intended, given the misogyny of Hollywood (and by extension the first owners of Hard Rock Cafe). 


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