by Laura Ferguson
The party atmosphere is derived from the brilliant decision to have an opening act. Tonight’s is DJ Matty P and he does his job fantastically, getting the crowd to clap along to parts of the songs, and we follow enthusiastically. The cast in all their Freddy Mercurian, glamour metal glory strut around, rocking out together when their paths cross. From my seat, I can only see them peripherally and wish I could get a closer look at their animal-printed, glittery, faux-fur costumes. And the hair! There’s so much hair, because of course there is, it’s the 80’s!
Finally, the lights fade from kaleidoscopic to monochrome and the cast enters the stage, including the writer, director, lighting designer and producer, Tom Knowles and his band consisting of Josh Logan, Sam Logan and Jed Parsons. They launch straight into the first song and the music is fun and loud. Towards the end, Knowles encourages us to join in with the chorus and we do, the upbeat vibe meaning I want to participate at any opportunity.
Song over, the dialogue of the show now underway, the cast utilise a haphazard comedy style. Mistakes and fumbles only add to the charm of this show in a bumbling, Rhys Darby-esque, way and I am in raptures over it. In addition to this, Knowles structures the story around the guise of Romeo & Juliet, though Romeo & Juliet-ish is more accurate, taking the parts that work and leaving the rest.
Knowles is charming and emanates that rock-god magnetism so critical to the success of any good 80’s band. In fact, the other band members, Logan, Logan and Parsons all add to the spectacle and the hilarity. Not only does the entire band ooze that good ol’ Kiwi charm, but they play their instruments with both skill and entertainment value. Knowles gives us the flair of Freddie Mercury on keyboard. Sam Logan shows off an undulating Hendrix-style on lead guitar, while on bass Josh Logan has a more Van Halen take with a lot of energetic movement and spinning of his guitar. Jed Parsons on drums has precise arm movements, but headbangs with the best of what the 80’s could offer.
The songs are incredible: funny and catchy. The audience and I love third song so much that we continue to sing the chorus even after the song ends. Through his songs, Knowles leads us through his trials as he searches a way to end his curse through a series of different 80’s rock genres with many in-joke references peppered throughout. Seeing how many puns, and other tidbits of 80’s entertainment trivia made a kind of game out of the show. Discovering them like pieces of comedic gold had me ribbing my companions and making eyebrow waggles in a silent gesture of, “Did you spot that one!”
The Shakespeare motif runs throughout which I was glad for since I like when shows stay with their chosen running theme rather than dumping it after the introduction. Knowles continues to smatter references to Romeo & Juliet throughout though and even ties it into the conclusion of the show. As the last chord strikes, the audience clap wildly, a cacophony of sound of cheering and cries for an encore. Our wish is granted and altogether too soon, the show is ended and a deserved standing ovation is given.
Deep breath. I’m going to say it: Allergic to Love is my favourite Fringe show of 2017. Sure, it’s not deep or philosophical, but instead it is hella entertaining. The songs sparkle with wit and charisma. Knowles’ voice settles into me like a pollen spore making me itchy to be on my feet dancing. The narratives in between are good-humoured and made me laugh constantly. The backup performances of Logan, Logan and Parsons slotting in easily to make the entire ensemble an outstanding piece of collaboration. The lighting, designed by Knowles with help from Alex Fisher and operated by Elliot Harris keeps the rock concert atmosphere blazing. When I wiggle and squirm in my seat, it is from dancing as much as I can while seated. My companions took this even further as they were so energised after the show that felt that absolutely had to go dancing. I’m going again to the next show. I might not be allergic to love, but I might just be addicted to it.
Allergic to Love: Curse of the 80’s is showing at The Grand from Thursday 2nd - Saturday 4th of March. Tickets are available at www.fringe.co.nz.