Fired up for ’80s fun

All Fired Up (Box Jelly Theatre Company)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Underground Theatre

March 11 – 12

Rachel Terry and Roz Pappalardo’s “All Fired Up” is an appropriately titled show. The Bat Benatar song of its naming not only encapsulates the ultimate message of its narrative and its accompanying, enticing soundtrack, but its infectious pre-show atmosphere… such is the power of nostalgia for one of most divisive decades in modern history.

But… can a trip to the ‘80’s and a chat with your 15-year-old self really solve a mid-life crisis? This is the question at the centre of show’s story, which sees Tammy (Rachel Terry) turn from peri vs puberty battle with her daughter (Scarlett Terry), back to the ‘80s of her own youth, courtesy of the cassette mix tape that catalyses their latest mother-daughter argument.

Much humour comes from the turn-back-time storyline, especially as Tammy tries not to reveal specifics of her since-then history to her teenage self, let alone ways in which the world might change (just don’t mention Whitney Houston!) There is a whirlwind of nostalgic moments in the show’s authentic fill of little details of the TDK tape, Cabbage Patch kid and Passion Pop sort to accompany Tammy’s attempt to solve her problems, one ‘80’s song at a time. And the clever incorporation of iconic lyrics within its dialogue and film-clip nods adds another level to appreciation.

The live band of Tnee Dyer, Thomas Lever, Cameron Nicholls and Mike Turner also looks and sounds the part. And they perfectly capture the energy of the era, from the harder-edge rock of Journey’s still-cheesy anthem ‘to the bubble gum pop stylings of ‘Choose-Life’ numbers, enhanced by Jason Glenwright’s fluro lighting design. Indeed, they give us many standout musical moments, such as recreation of A-ha’s infectious electropop synth riff. And prolific musician Roz Pappalard (who also serves as DJ Neon coming to Tammy’s younger self through her prized possession double tape deck stereo with hits of the decade alongside life advice) is a gutsy singer. Her roaring-engine voice ramps things up with full throttle energy and both inspiration to accomplish anything possible in closing realisation that time’s just holding us down and fire up inspiration that anything is possible.

The ‘80s are about much more than eccentricities and their sounds are spirit-lifting, animating the crowd from the outset. Not only are audience members guaranteed to be singing along and dancing in their seats, but also up on their feet, including through involvement in a take on me  a dance class complete with ‘80s themed moves, E.T. et al style, which represents the framing device of the show’s premise.

“All Fired Up” is a fantastic show! Not only will you want to immediately see it again, but you will be straight-away wishing for its return so that you can also bring along everyone of a similar-life-vintage if you are a teen of the ‘80s. Indeed, it is all incredible feel good, which fits with Cairns-based Box Jelly Theatre’s belief in enhancing the community’s wellbeing through the power of creativity’. Given that studies have shown the power of positive nostalgia ‘80s songs can bring with their upbeat sounds which induce the release of endorphins and serotonin in the brain, “All Fired Up” delivers on multiple levels. From its opening ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll’ through to its titular ‘All Fired Up’, there is, in addition, a looser thread of celebration of ‘80s rock heroines. It also serves as a reminder of how ’80s songs are somehow of their time and also timeless, because, who needs W.A.P when you’ve got Wham! and Madonna?

You don’t need a DeLorean or even a slap of blue eye-shadow to be transported back to the decade of decadence by this very relatable show. All you need is a burning, yearning for somebody to tell you that life ain’t passing you by. Not only will it prompt consideration of the need to make time for the fun that calls your name, but also ponder of what you might say to your 15-year-old self (like don’t ditch all your original band shirts; they will worth a mint one day).

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