Meeting memories

Dirty Fame Flash Candles Club (Western Standard Productions)

Judith Wright Arts Centre 

June 10 – 18

Dirty Fame Flash Candles Club is having its very first meeting in the Judith Wright clubhouse and all ‘80s era fans are welcome. After pledging our allegiance, the show’s audience is moved through agenda items and commendations for watermelon carrying et al, to learn that Fran Grey (Melissa Western) is joining the executive committee. To serve, she needs to have her ‘80s movie climax initiation fast-tracked and we get to watch!

Blessed by the spirit of Swayze, this footloose foursome of girls just want to have fun and performers Helen Cassidy, Lizzie Moore, Neridah Waters and Melissa Western throw themselves into the show’s celebration of living our best lives. Western, in particular, is charming as shy spreadsheet enthusiast Fran, hesitant especially amongst the big personalities of her now fellow board members.

As Act One continues we learn of the fictional club’s foundation in a random, prolonged flashback to DFFCC’s founder and president, the right honourable Tracey Bacon’s (Neridah Waters) time working at the supermarket deli. It’s all a bit loose, but in the funnest clowning-about kind of way, including with audience involvement in a Hey Hey It’s A Knockout ‘80s movie quiz.

Things move more quickly in Act Two with its amped up audience participation courtesy of an en masse ‘Take On Me’ dance routine, testimonials and a audience club member raffle draw, punctuated by many memorable moments. Most notable of these, from an audience reaction perspective, is probably a difficult-to-describe “Labyrinth” dream fantasy sequence of Merchandise Coordinator Molly Estevez (Helen Cassidy), with a big helping hand (and then some) from Lizzie Moore as David Bowie’s Jareth the Goblin King.

Inspired by the spirit of the ‘80s, this cabaret-style comedy quasi-musical is, of course full of nostalgic nods to the era. Its iconic music hits are hinted at in dialogue and included in snippets, with a few featuring as longer numbers, such as an inventively choreographed ‘Maniac’. Recognisable pop culture props make appearance too, from “Flashdance” welding to tease of its water scene.

No ‘80s show, however, would be complete without a “Dirty Dancing” reference or two and “Dirty Fame Flash Candles Club” manages to achieve this with its own twist. Club Vice President Sam Sheedy (Lizzy Moore) gives us a sensual self-care ‘Hungry Eyes’ tribute to what every busy woman really wants and, at Western’s hilariously-animated lead, the talent-show-ending ‘Kellerman’s Anthem’ becomes a shared singalong of joined ‘hands and hearts and voices – voices, hearts and hands’. Indeed, each time the starting strains of a familiar ‘80s song fill the air, they are accompanied by the joyful sounds of nostalgic recognition from within the audience.

“Dirty Fame Flash Candles Club” may be a show inspired by Coles Radio electro synth escapism, but its nostalgia-inducing sentiments serve as proof that the ‘80s are ‘gonna live forever’ (and fly high) in all of the era’s scrunchied, crimped-hair, shoulderpadded and neon et al glory. Attendance represents an opportunity for those of a certain vintage to get their brat pack together, and potentially dress the part to take part in an infectiously-fun night of nostalgia-induced ridiculousness. Like Fran, you just might end up having the time of your life, to be send home to dance right through your life in revisit of the era’s great movie soundtracks.

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