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Deep in the East Midland’s countryside, a vast and experienced team are working away on what already promises to be one of the most ambitious and spectacular live events in history. From the mind of Fast & Furious superfan Rowland French, the show’s Executive Producer and Creative Director, the live outing aims to pull together the mind-blowing action from the series’ seven outings to date, whilst simultaneously bringing audiences into the Fast & Furious family. Rowland, affectionately known as Rowly, explains to a room of eager journalists that it is that which has elevated the franchise to today’s dizzying heights.
Find out below what we learned during our visit to Fast Camp, ahead of Fast & Furious Live.
The show plans to transport the action from the films directly into arenas across the world. It’ll build on the now iconic on-screen stories, which follow the likes of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Connor (the late Paul Walker) and Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson). Fast & Furious will come complete with its own new storyline, providing the heartfelt backdrop for the in-arena action.
Fundamentally, it’s all about the cars. Built around the high-octane world of street racing, Fast & Furious Live will teleport the best from the film series into live action right before audiences’ eyes. Without giving too much away, the creative team mention exploding tankers, airplanes and submarines, before parading the absolute show-stealing highlights; not least the undisputed fan favourite, the 1970 Dodge Charger that Toretto, portrayed by Vin Diesel on screen, lovingly cherishes.
The wealth of experience behind Fast & Furious Live is commendable. Led by Rowly French, who has previously worked on Top Gear Live and on the Top Gear TV programme, there’s a serious love of all things cars. Rowly started working on Fast and Furious Live around five years ago, and appears genuinely ecstatic to bring it to the masses. The enthusiasm is infectious, as he explains how this show will be bigger and better than any car show that has come before.
Rowly is joined by a vast creative team, from producers to creative directors, costume designers to composers, and choreographers to stunt drivers.
The car choreography is provided by Colin Sangster and Naomi French, the latter who has travelled the world as one of the most sought-after dancers and fire performers. Her previous credits include Top Gear Live, where she first pointed her skills in movement towards four wheels.
Sangster arrives at Fast & Furious Live from a dance background, after stints with the Royal Ballet and Scottish Ballet. He’s also worked on the world famous JCB Dancing Diggers Display Team, the global launch of the Ford Focus RS, and has designed driving sequences for Top Gear Live.
Together they create an action-packed dance with the vehicles. Commanding the drivers from the side of the arena, they are responsible for the careful intricacies that see the vehicles expertly glide across the arena floor. As lead stunt driver Chris Burns reliable informs us, this is far more than any car show that has come before. This is car theatre.
Chris ‘Burnout’ Burns leads the charge. He’s responsible for sourcing and building the exciting array of cars, and modifying them to get the best out of the stunts. He’s joined by a handpicked group of stunt drivers, renowned globally for their skills. The drivers were all selected from a rigorous worldwide recruitment drive. As driver Jonathon Irwin, drift mechanic and founding member of the Full Throttle stunt display team tells us as we prepare to be spun around as a passenger, “it’s like a fairytale.”
Irwin and Burns are joined by experienced professional stunt driver Anthony Scott, two time Mini Challenge Champion Chris Knox, Chris Morena whose work includes Transformers and has crashed over 800 cars in his 20 years of live shows, TV and film, and Derek Butler – the original wild-child of drifting.
The team is completed by 19 year old Jodie Rasburn, the youngest girl to compete professionally in a drift championship, championship drifter Michelle Westby, security transport driver and stunt instructor Nathan Gerhold, movie expert Sebastien Fauassier, and British Karting Champion and current Mini Challenge Cooper Pro Championship leader Jessica Hawkins.
That’s quite the team!
Speaking to Chris Burns at Fast Camp he explains how the production team, after five years, have a motto. “The word impossible is only a word,” he explains. “That is genuinely the honest truth. At various parts of this year, things just didn’t exist that we needed. We’ve had to find a way of doing it. We’ve done that with more than one thing.”
“We’ve literally reinvented the wheel. We’ve had a car constructed that people have said is impossible to construct.”
“We strive to perfection, but ultimately for the audience to immerse them in the Fast family. We transport them around the globe on a wonderful journey and adventure. We celebrate the best of every movie, but we do it live. In the movie, they get take after take. Here, we just have to get it right first time.”
Asked what goes through a stunt driver head, Chris tells us that he doesn’t get nervous. “I don’t get nervous, but I get extremely anxious. You have to be. We want to deliver the best experience we possibly can, and if we’re not anxious we’re not focussed.”
“There’s always jeopardy. Anyone who comes to a show will clearly see that. But that’s why we rehearse, and do it over and over again. We limit the opportunity of it all going wrong.”
Summing up the show, Chris adds: “People should come and see Fast & Furious Live because there’s nothing like it. If you’re a car fan, or a fan of the franchise… even if you’re not and you want to come and be entertained in a way you previously thought was impossible, you must see Fast & Furious Live”
As with the movie franchise, Fast & Furious is not just about the car action. The live outing has its very own plot to follow, taking audiences closer than ever before to the films. As the 3D mapping literally spins the audiences into the action, complete with specially recorded clips of well known stars, the arena follows new lead characters; street racer Sophia Diaz and DSS Agent Dawson. The pair join forces to hunt down Cain, one of Cipher’s crew.
As well as the parkour, explosions, stuns and racing, the audience will be directly involved in the action, leading Diaz and Dawson on their high-octane journey. The mapping transports the arenas to Los Angeles, Tokyo, Russia, Rio and more.
Fans can expect live recreations of some of the most explosive, intricate and downright dangerous stunts from across the film series, including from the most recent release, Fate of the Furious. Cars will flip, tankers will fly, and Toretto’s Dodge Charger will get in on the action. There’s much more to be expected too, but part of the excitement is the unknown.
Right now, the special effects team is hard at work at Fast Camp developing state of the art technology to further bring Fast & Furious to life. They’ll be exploding bullets, dazzling lighting, specially designed tyres, and much, much more.
Find out more about things to come in our full gallery here and watch the awesome behind-the-scenes video below:
Here are those all important tour dates:
19 – 21 January 2018 – The O2, London
6 – 8 April 2018 – Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle
13 – 15 April 2018 – Manchester Arena, Manchester
20 – 22 April 2018 – Birmingham Arena, Birmingham
27 – 29 April 2018 – Sheffield Arena, Sheffield
4 – 6 May 2018 – SSE Arena, Belfast
11 – 13 May 2018 – SSE Hydro, Glasgow
Tickets will be available from 9:00 on Friday 29 September 2017.
Grab them through Ticketmaster.co.uk.