Cabaret Festival shows can be a little tricky. You go to a show thinking it’s one thing and it turns out to be a completely other different thing. Often those twists and surprises are tippy tops. Sunglasses at Night, is a show that does exactly what it says on the box. It’s a cabaret show full of apocalyptic 80’s songs that the audience is encouraged to sing along with. Well, Geraldine Quinn – you are ticking all my boxes right from the get go.
An introduction video explains it was terrifying to live in the 1980’s. The threat of nuclear war, Aids, etc so we shouldn’t be expecting ‘none of this ra ra skirts and side pony tail bollocks’ we are warned. Entering from the back of the room Geraldine Quinn appears from the dark with a bright red shock of hair (a tribute to Flame Fortune perhaps) and a dress short enough so we can see her ‘cabaret undies’. After comically fumbling the first lines of the first song, Vienna by Ultravox (lead by her beloved Midge Ure) we get to know each other a little. We will be singing. That is the whole point. Plus Quinn tells us that after five days of shows her voice is a bit shot and she is going to need our help. From where I am siting there is precisely zero wrong with Ms Quinn’s voice and she belts out 80’s classics with gusto.
We are invited to join in on the show’s title song, the Corey Hart classic from 1983. Which we do with enthusiasm until the entire crowd realises by the time we get to the third line, that we have no idea what the words actually are. It one of those songs everybody knows the chorus and precisely some of the words to. Geraldine is not going to leave us hanging and the rest of the show we get some assistance.
The lyrics, often comically changed or adorned with corrections, pronunciation suggestions, drawings of dicks or other hilarious asides, appear on a screen for us to try and sing along to, if we can stop laughing long enough. For next hour we are on a three quarter length coat, Boy London t-shirted, fluoro top wearing roller coaster ride. Babooshka by Kate Bush, some excellent audience participation from three people from a front table for Don’t You Want Me. During Pat Benatar’s Love Is a Battlefield, Quinn gives us the hilarious backstory of the iconic video, before showing us all how to do the angry prostitute gang dance, which leaves many gasping for air.
A phonetic German version of Nena’s 99 Luftballons, has the audience racing to blow up (not quite) a hundred balloons before the song ends. And speaking of epic, how could we have an 80’s sing along show with out Total Eclipse of the Heart. A massive hit for Bonnie Tyler in 1983 and one of the best examples of over wrought, bombast ever to top the charts. Written by Jim Steinman the man behind Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell album. It is an absolutely highlight this afternoon, with the slides making reference to Watership Down and the band Sparks before suggesting that ‘the dark’ isn’t the only place ‘there is only love in’.
An encore of Spandau Ballet’s Gold is a killer and everybody get’s to sing along on the ‘I’m proud of you, yes I’m proud of you’ and ‘GOLD’ bits and we leave with silly grins on out faces.
I suspect Geraldine’s voice issues were the main reason the show was a little shorter than advertised (sixty minutes rather than seventy), but nobody was complaining and it means there will be new songs to sing along with next time.
This show showed it’s true colours and didn’t really want to hurt us.
Adelaide Cabaret Review by Ian Bell