Retro themes are understandably popular at fringe festivals, not only because they provide great memories for audiences to reminisce, but because there is a wealth of content from ‘way back then’ that is just ripe for the picking (and yes, sometimes even rotten).
It’s a pity, then, when a retro-themed Fringe World show such as the 80s LoveBus Tour starring Gloria, doesn’t push the envelope to make the most of an era that was simply bursting with brilliant pop cultural references. Instead, the LoveBus limits itself to only two aspects of ’80s nostalgia: stories of Perth nightclubbing in the 1980s (which pretty much consisted of which visiting celebrities frequented which old venues) and popular music circa 1983 to 1988.
Gloria’s tour is conducted momentarily by minibus but mostly by foot, which is a pity because for the price tag of $47.50, a person oughtn’t really be expected to do such a great amount of walking around. If we wanted to hotfoot it around Northbridge and ogle old venues with new names, we’d do it for free, preferably drunk, on a Saturday night.
So far as entertainment goes, it seems the audience is expected to take care of much of this, with each participant given a ‘role’ to play – such as ‘Personal Assistant to Gloria’ (which I played), ‘Sound Operator’ (my guest, Barbara), ‘Security Guard’, and even ‘Spiritual Guide’ (which I admit, was quite funny).
While it’s all good and well to invite audience members to interact with a musical comedy production, it’s a bit of a push to insist they play the part. Also, perhaps forced singalongs and dance routines just ain’t my thing… I’m not too sure.
Had Gloria done more performance herself, participants would probably (a) appreciate the tour a lot more, and (b) have been treated to some very good talent – for the girl really can sing, which is proven right at the very end of the tour when she croons a classic ballad, in eponymous ’80s diva-style. If I was managing this production, I’d had gotten the gal to sing seriously right at the get-go.
The 80s LoveBus Tour is co-produced by boutique tour company, Hidden deTours, which ordinarily puts on a pretty good show. Last year, I had the pleasure of going on their Hidden Music Tour, which took in the sights and sounds of the city’s colourful, musical past, from old dance halls to seedy jazz bars. Perhaps it because that tour stretched as far back as the early 1900s with its wicked tales and landmark locations that it was interesting to me, or perhaps it is because I’m too familiar with 1980s pop culture that I just found the LoveBus Tour lacking in anything new. Either way, something is kind of missing on this tour – and it ain’t Jason Donovan, who seemed to be the subject of a kind of scavenger hunt for our tour host.
Any music tour ought to do more than just offer a soundtrack of the past. It should celebrate and pay homage to great places and the great events that took place there but it should also up the ante in excitement.
One suggestion to change things up a little might be to have a previous club owner appear who could reveal some really juicy stories. Or, instead of just filling the tour with stops at contemporary venues that were once cool hangs, feature a few stops that still operate today and that very much provide an ’80s vibe – like a little gameplay at TimeZone in Northbridge. Now that could have led to some very cool, voluntary audience participation. Antonino Tati
‘The 80s LoveBus Tour starring Gloria’ is on from Wednesday 31st January to Wednesday 21st February, 2018. The tour runs for 90 minutes. Tickets at $47.50 pp can be purchased at www.fringeworld.com.au.
Photo (top of story) by Deric Martin (Instagram: Doigyderic).