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Thursday, 14 December 2017

ABBA Super Troupers The Exhibition - Press Conference And Fan Review !

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Kacey O'Neill from United Kingdom has put in an amazing effort to bring us details and her personal review of ABBA Super Troupers - The Exhibition which opened at the Southbank Centre in London today.

Kacey managed to attend the Press Preview on 13th December - and yes, Bjorn was there !

You can follow any updates on the Facebook page ABBA Info or keep checking back here as Kacey will be providing further information and photos.


Kacey's Review:

ABBA: Super Troupers. - The Review (by Kacey O'Neill)

I made it to the Press Preview of ABBA: Super Troupers on Wednesday 13th December. With representatives from every organisation involved in putting this exhibition together to Universal Music including Mia Segolsson. For fans the important players that were present: Bjorn Ulvaeus, Gorel Hanser and Ingmarie Halling. The room was packed waiting for the speeches to be done as an introduction to the press for ABBA: Super Troupers. Bjorn sat in front of us whilst all this was going on, just another man, another visitor waiting to do his speech. He hadn’t realise how gloomy the United Kingdom must have been at that time as ABBA started out on their road to fame. However on that note I must point out despite the black outs and three day weeks, as a very young child I remember our home was a safe and happy one. Maybe less is more in the current climate of materialism. My friend Luke has his photo taken with Gorel after he had interviewed her for his radio show. She was happy to have her photo taken with him and said to me ‘’It’s good to see someone with a real camera taking photos’’. Helga from the ABBA Fan Club and I later allowed Luke loose with the camera so he could take our photo in front in the ABBA: Super Troupers Exhibition projection display.

Onto the actual exhibition itself. The three of us were booked in for the 11:15 tour. What you have to remember the additional people attending this tour are also reviewing the exhibition and most probably not ABBA fans with the knowledge and expectations and may not fully understand the why the rooms are set out in such a way. Also the exhibition with it’s artefacts and displays isn’t souley about ABBA. It is also intertwined with the country’s memories of 1970’s Britain and what it was like during that time. This exhibition is very different to ABBA World and ABBA The Museum. You cannot compare ABBA: Super Troupers to these as that would be unfair and out of context to what The Southbank Centre are aiming to achieve. With this in mind you will have wiped all memories of previous exhibitions seen and enjoy the Super Troupers exhibition for what it is and step back in time.

Our guide on this tour was Neil – I must add he also a fully fledged ABBA fan and enjoying every minute of the work and his job in hand. - We go through a door of a vinyl record into a room of darkness which soon lights up gradually with a Super Trouper spotlight in and a disco ball behind us. As we progress through each room we get plenty of information from our guide interspersed by narrative presented by Jarvis Cocker. An unexpected choice in fans eyes but his voice brings a familiarity to the whole presentation. As ABBA songs are played through the speakers and press people guess the songs there is an odd sensation of movement with the lights and disco ball spinning, but you are not moving you are standing still. As the tour progresses you walk through a series of secret doors from wardrobes – a Narnia moment – to caravans and toilet doors.

Next room we move into is a typical 1970’s living room, wow what a throwback. Old TV that works showing archive news footage (you come to realise that history repeats in a different scenario but we never learn), radio, a collection of vinyl and through a window a snatched moment of a kitchen cabinets too. ABBA posters, Lookin magazines, paper doll cut outs, badges, some archive material and Ring Ring Gold Disc in a frame. Ok, there is a copy of the band’s album ‘Ring, Ring’ on prominent display in the vinyl. The ABBA fan of the house could have bought this on import from Adrian’s Records as the band’s popularity grew during that decade. However Luke and I spotted a copy of an LP by Anita Dobson so that was definitely out of place being released in the 1980’s. From here on you understand and realise the reasons why you cannot take photos of the exhibition. With 16 people going from room to room, photo opportunities are difficult (mobile phones get some interference for some reason so it’s best to switch them off) and most likely detract from actual tour talk/presentation and may annoy other attendees.

We move onto the next room and for anyone that is tall some doorways you will have to dip down unless you want to bang your head! We wait in a small hotel corridor and spot the Fire Extinguisher with the name ‘Waterloo’. The Napoleon Suite being aptly named may have prompted Benny at the time to place a bet on winning the Eurovision Song Contest. All good omens. We go through the door and as Bjorn says in an interview is the replica of Agnetha and Bjorn’s suite. You can see celebrations have gone on in this room after ABBA;s win of the Eurovision Song Contest. Glasses having been filled with drink, bottles of champagne and chinzano – remember that drink? – You have the replica Waterloo costumes visible through glass and a replica of Bjorn’s star guitar displayed right in the middle of the double bed. You watch ABBA’s performance at the Eurovision Song Contest on a TV screen whilst perusing through a copy of the local newspaper on the table featuring all the Eurovision artists. There are news clippings displayed on the victory, a replica of the Eurovision medal, Agnetha’s hat and other archive material to view. This is one of my favourite rooms of the tour.
We move onto the Folkes Park room through the bedroom wardrobe and it is here we have some experience of the Swedish Folk Parks where thee ABBA members would have performed. Warm balmy nights, hot summer days with microphones, piano all ready for rehearsal. There is sheet music photos and doodles by Frida,, Bjorn’s school report, military enrolment book and other archive material.

The next room was another favourite of mine. The Polar Studios. Here you are given a set of headphones to put on to listen to your tour guide, the narration and of course ABBA’s wonderful music. You see Agnetha’s head phones, an ABBA Magazine reporting on ABBA in the studio, hand written manuscripts, archive material all set out in a recording studio. There is a 2 track analog 1/4’’ tape recorder 24 track analog 2’’ tape recorder along with other studio equipment. You get the chance to hear ‘Money Money Money’ and mix up or mix down the track which is great fun to do and hear. and on the video screen in the actual studio you get to see and hear the video clip of the missing verse of ‘’Dancing Queen’’ that us fans already know about but most press unaware of and whilst this is playing you get your own chance to sing the chorus of ‘’Dancing Queen’’ live in the studio.
We move on to the next room. ABBA on tour in Australia behind the stage where their dressing rooms are caravans and boy are they small. I did ask about this and the flooring as there appeared to be some confusion in some people’s faces. Neil gave a great answer and confused faces turned to ‘now I understand’. Maybe some had not experienced the early days of Glastonbury either. Live tour film footage from ABBA The Movie played in the back ground with interspersed interviews (similar footage present in ABBA World and ABBA The Museum) whilst the rain emptied down. The floor was a mixture of grass, dried mum, gravel stones and wooden slats all under a covered back stage area. The one caravan set out with an old Kitchen unit, iron make up, bottles and a gold cape on display behind glass. There was seating outside with coffee cups and bottles, a suitcase and display material included photos, news clippings hand written note from Agnetha, signed postcard and a ‘Bullshit’ list for which the title alone made me laugh! What ABBA got provided with on tour in 1977 bands and artists would throw a tantrum and not accept this on their riders. It was all pretty basic stuff and not the rock and roll you would expect. I rather liked this room. It gave insight to ABBA back in the day.

Now this is the room I don’t get. The Nightclub Toilet disco. Walls full of graffiti, old posters of bands and leaflets stuck to the wall and grotty toilets. There was also a little bit of public toilets smell in the air. It was also a room I didn’t pay much attention to apart form the ABBA display material. It’s connection was to do with night clubs and disco and you before you enter the room, you as visitors are queuing for the toilets! The ABBA display material is in the cubicle and sinks and mirror wall. There are a signed concert ticket and ‘79 tour programme. Other concert tickets for Wembley and Japan as well as premiere tickets and passes for concerts and ABBA The Movie. There is a letter from the Police about Piccadilly Circus regarding ABBA’s request to film the promo video of ‘Super Trouper’. The big display is the tour suitcase that ABBA’s Doctor used, Benny’s boots from the 77 tour and one of the 1979 tour capes from the ABBA concerts.

Maybe in place of this room there could have been an ABBA fan’s typical bedroom with posters on the wall, memorabilia around, record player, vinyl and seventies fashion to keep in with the ABBA memories and seventies memories. Far more relative. Sorry but the Nightclub Toilet Disco just doesn’t work for me and my reasons are constructive not dismissive.

We move onto the room reminiscent of ABBA’s video ‘’One of us’’. It is known as the Melancholy Room and is a front room of unpacked boxes. You have Frida’s green dress from ‘When All Is Said and Done’ video behind glass. There is a poster of ABBA The Visitors with an earlier poster of ABBA in their career and how different it was from beginning to their final studio album. There is archive material including photos of ABBA at their party for The Singles The First Ten Years. A press release about Frida moving to London, the latest ABBA album release and fan letter display. You also ending up watching ABBA's last interview with Noel Edmonds in 1982 on the TV. In a way you feel that hint of sadness.

The final room is a luxurious plane flight known as The Legacy. Luxury seating which we all took the opportunity to sit on!! Luke and I sat in front of the amazing replica puppets that were used in the Last Video. Those puppets do look amazing as the last time I saw them was under spotlights and artificial lighting. There is also a jumpsuit costume and boots worn by Donna in ‘Mamma Mia!’ and the kimono outfits we all know and love. There is also the Japanese Gold cassette award for the single ‘Super Trouper’. As you are seated the plane takes off and you get that take off sensation and then you view clips of ABBA videos in the window panes along with clips from films ‘Muriel’s Wedding’ ‘The Adventures Of Priscilla Queen Of The Dessert’ and a tribute by ‘French and Saunders’ with C’est La vie. It is here the plane descends and lands (no turbulence by the way) and the tour concludes with the story of ABBA’s longevity and continued legacy.

Overall, this is a tour. It lasts one hour and timing is important. You can ask your guide any questions during the tour and they are happy to answer. The Guides present the tour very professionally. Ok it may be scripted but there is room for ad lib. I can draw comparisons to tours I have been on for The Colston Hall and The Hippodrome in Bristol. The information is informative but not deep in depth that long term fans could have said ‘well I didn’t know that’. I’d also would have liked to have seen more material on display but having said that less is more and it is a taster. You can use your imagination and knowledge you already have as an ABBA fan. You are taken on a journey of ABBA and seventies Britain and I thoroughly enjoyed being a long term fan myself. I didn’t know what to expect but what is presented is well thought out. You don’t have the chance you go around the tour at your leisure as you could at ABBA World and ABBA The Museum and it would be totally unfair to draw comparisons, ABBA: Super Troupers is a unique exhibition.

I'd give it 81/2 out of 10. But for fans like us the information provided we already know. For the fan who loves ABBA's music it would be a good learning curve to learn more about the band and a little of Britain's history at the time.

It's also good to note that British Sign Language , Autism and Tourette's Friendly, and Dementia Friendly tours are available and you can find information here: https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/…/126442-abba-super-troup…

Footnote: You asked, I tell. The merchandise shop for ABBA: Super Troupers is small. There is a selection of ABBA Memorabilia you can buy that is also available at ABBA The Museum apart from the The Exhibition bags and poster. There are books, keyrings, postcards, posters, mugs, ABBA Album Christmas baubles, hats, t-shirts and bags.

Abba: Super Troupers is at the Southbank Centre, London, 14 December-29 April. Go to web site: https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/…/123377-abba-super-troup… Tickets are £15 - £25.

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