Saturday, 7 December 2019

ABBA Super Trouper The Exhibition - Review

The O2, London


****

The Arrival room, themed around the 1976 album of the same name

My my! As ABBA Super Trouper The Exhibition opens this week at the O2 there is now a chance to catch a brilliantly curated glimpse into the history of this remarkable Swedish quartet. ABBA's predominantly 1970s song catalogue that has gone on to span both generations and continents, possesses a charm that quite possibly no other band in the history of pop has matched. Simply put, their simply structured songs make people smile. With harmonies and chords that are distinctive yet very singable and lyrics that are as homely and everyday as they are passionate and perceptive.

Curated by Jude Kelly, a woman whose finger has been firmly on the pulse of Western zeitgeist for most of this century, the exhibition opens in a room full of TV screens looping various broadcast clips from 1974 - the year that saw ABBA burst into the British psyche with their Eurovision winner, Waterloo. The recordings will appeal to the parents (or grandparents!) visiting, as commercials, sit-coms, adverts and news bulletins play out contiulously, reminding us of the imminent general election that was, together with the 3-Day Week and continued debate over Europe. Plus ca change...

Working alongside Kelly has been Ingmarie Halling who not only founded but still curates the ABBA museum in Stockholm. Halling spoke to me about her long association with the band that dates back to her having assisted with costumes and makeup in 1975. She told of how her enduring friendship with the foursome means that she is never more than a phone call away from accessing that elusive prop, sometimes even a piano(!), that all contribute to keeping the Swedish museum a continually exciting attraction. 

From the 1974 opening mise-en-scene, the exhibition becomes a time-hop through the band’s history and discography via a variety of imaginatively themed rooms. The Folk Park sets out the band’s origins, while the telephone filled Ring Ring room invites visitors to lift a handset (authentic 70s, natch) and catch a further audio snapshot of the time. 

The exhibition moves on into the Waterloo room, a brilliant depiction of the band’s emergence into fame beyond Sweden and thence into a gorgeously tacky mock up of Brighton Pavilion, the Eurovision host venue that saw Waterloo’s victory. There’s a replica of the contest’s scoreboard from the evening and even a loop of Katie Boyle (remember her?) et al, hosting the ceremony.

All the band’s other albums are meticulously supported with memorabilia- some are huge in their significance such as scribbled lyrics, others perhaps more trivial. The replica of that helicopter from the band’s Arrival album (an LP that in turn spawned perhaps their biggest hit, Dancing Queen) will appeal to many. And for the hardcore fans there is a mock-up of superfan Andrew Boardman’s Manchester front room that he has devotedly converted into a tribute to the band. 

It wouldn’t be ABBA without a dance and so the exhibition’s final hall is a massive, disco-lit dance floor, where with the band playing on screen the urge to dance is irresistible.

The exhibition runs until August next year - and ingeniously not only sells the usual individual or family ticket combos, but mamma mia and with an eye to the money, money, money, there is also a Return Ticket. This allows a maximum of 4 separate discounted visits, for those reluctant to perhaps see their initial experience slipping through their fingers.


Tickets are sold in 30-minute entry slots.

Adult £27 
Adult Return £59 (up to a maximum of 4 visits) 
Child £13.50 (children under 5 go free) 
Family of 3 £54 (1 adult, 2 children) 
Family of 4 £65 (2 adults, 2 children) 
Family of 5 £72 (2 adults, 3 children)  
Concession £22 
Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult 



Tickets available at abbasupertroupers.com

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