Melbourne Cabaret Festival: Sunglasses at night

“We are young
Heartache to heartache
we stand”

If you’re now singing and frightened that you remember those dance moves but can’t remember how to unlock your phone, you need to get to Geraldine Quinn’s Sunglasses at night: The 80s apocalypse sing along cabaret. Sadly, she’s only doing two performances at the Melbourne Cabaret Festival – last one TONIGHT – but it will be back. It has to be back because there are too many people who were teenagers in the 1980s who need to see this and sing along.

Geraldine Quinn

SING ALONG! Not sing under your breath and annoy the people near you, but loudly and proudly and in fear of a microphone being put in your face if you don’t.

In an 80s shoulder-padded dress that could only be improved if it were colbolt blue and patterned tights that flatter no leg, Geraldine sings the songs I know. I think I could have done most of it without the words on the screen. And it’s not karaoke I-can’t-read-that tiny type. It’s neatishly hand written, I-can-read-that-without-my-glasses PowerPoint slides, decorated with coloured pens and doodles, and scattered with mondegreens that pose a genuine sing-or-laugh dilemma.

Born in 1975 (it’s ok, she says that in the show), Geraldine’s view of 80s pop is different from that of us born earlier. I remember intense and pretty singers with their social conscience on their sleeve, a huge brooch on their lapel, beautiful make up, gel sculptured hair, and hips that wore a jacket perfectly – and if anyone thinks for a second that I’m talking about woman, you weren’t there.

Geraldine saw these artists and their music as intense, poncy and overly concerned with the cold war and nuclear destruction. And with a couple pics of Midge Ure for reference, it all comes flooding back.

It really does answer a lot about us who grew up with this music. But, to be fair, it wasn’t all ponce and destruction; there was the positivity of Wham and their Choose Life t-shirts – who am I kidding, they were poncier than Ultravox and Spandau Ballet.

If you remember injuring yourself trying to Kohl pencil a perfect Cleopatra eye and bought blue mascara from the Body Shop, make sure the silicon chip inside your head’s not switched to overload, turn around (bright eyes) and sing for Gold (gold) with glorious pop tart Geraldine.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

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