Welcome back to the 80s

By Myron My

I really wanted to love School Dance. Everything I had heard about it was positive, and it is set in the 80s – which I think was an awesome time.

School Dance

Sadly I didn’t love it, but I certainly didn’t hate it either. All the ingredients were there, but I felt like this production has just in the oven for too long.

It’s the night of the school dance and we follow the amusing adventures of three awkward high school friends as they try to break through the barrier of social acceptance at their school. Everything about School Dance screams 80s – in a good way.

The costuming and make-up are authentic, including the acid-wash jeans, the big hair and the t-shirt that has a suit print on it. The high school auditorium set design by Jonathon Oxlade helped in setting up the time and environment, and the lighting design by Richard Vabre is exceptional and feels like it has its own character on stage.

Then we have the music – one of the best eras of music in my humble opinion. The performance is liberally littered with snippets of classic songs that were the epitome of those times – think I Need a Hero by Bonnie Tyler, and the like. The accompanying crazy dance moves and choreography are taken straight out of those neon-lit clubs from the 80s.

The three actors – Oxlade, Luke Smiles and writer Matthew Whittet – were flawless. Clearly they have been performing this show for quite some time as their comic physicality was impressive and the presence of their characters was felt throughout. Their interactions and energy levels was the main reason that School Dance endeared itself to so many.

There were a few dark elements that felt out of place in School Danceparticularly as it is currently playing as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. The premise of the show was so happy and comedic that the unexpected allusions to domestic violence, for example, went completely against that. There was no elaboration or ending to this sinister storyline which makes me wonder why it was included. Moreover a tighter script would have helped tremendously too as there seemed to be a few scenes that were there just for laughs and not to develop the story.

Upon discussion with a few others that had seen it, I found there were strongly polarised opinions about this show. There were people who loved it and wanted to see it again and people who wanted to leave halfway through. I enjoyed the nostalgia and it definitely took me on a journey I was not expecting, but for me, the narrative of School Dance still needed some work to really make this a slick production.

Venue: The Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Rd

Season: Until 20 April | Tues-Sun, 6:30pm

Tickets: $29 Full

Bookings: 1300 182 183, & at the door