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Flares: a rollicking '70s trip


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What’s not to love about ’70s pop culture, the decade that gave the world disco, mirror balls, big hair, glam rock, blue eye-shadow and flares?

Adelaide playwright Sue Oldknow’s aptly titled Flares, currently being presented by community theatre group Blackwood Players, encapsulates the fun of era with a script based around a family-run club called The Cash Club and featuring a catalogue of well-known songs spanning the folk, rock and disco genres.

After 20 years in business, the club is struggling and owner Mama Cash (Michelle Maclean) decides to let each of her two adult children have a go at running the show, with a view to handing over the reins to the most successful sibling. Rock-loving cool-dude Matt (Mitchell Lowe) and hippy-chick Maria, aka “Rainbow” (Tessa McCormack), each have very different visions, while waiting quietly in the wings – or, more accurately, behind the bar – is staff member Sherry (Tiffany Barbary), who has another idea entirely for the venue’s future.

The Players’ cast of 15 actors, singers and dancers clearly have a ball performing Flares. There’s an infectious energy and enthusiasm that comes across most strongly in the performance of upbeat tracks such as opener “Shake, Rattle and Roll”, “YMCA” and the crowd-pleasing “Born to Be Alive” (the latter complete with gaudy, glittery costumes and, in the case of Lowe, an afro wig).

There were a few issues with microphones and voice projection in some of the numbers on opening weekend, and pacing wasn’t always perfect, but this can be forgiven with such a large amateur cast, including several debut performances, in a production comprising 22 songs and 18 dances. Vocal highlights include Tiffany Barbary’s performance of the Gloria Gaynor anthem “I Will Survive”, and Michelle Maclean and Narrator Jarrod Chave’s front-of-curtain duet of James Taylor’s beautiful “Fire and Rain”.

While there is plenty of comedy in Oldknow’s script, the biggest audience laughs are reserved for the impressive pratfalls in which love-rat Matt gets his come-uppance – not once, but twice.

Falling audience numbers and a shortage of volunteers and staff saw the Blackwood Players at risk of folding in 2013, so it’s good to see the 64-year-old theatre group treading the boards again this year in the Blackwood Memorial Hall.

As Flares director Martin Barbary says in his program introduction: “Jump into our time machine, sit back and enjoy our all-too-brief visit to those wonderful ’70s.”

Flares will be performed again at the Blackwood Memorial Hall on May 9-10 and May 16-17.


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