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Geraldine Quinn: Shut Up And Sing at Mebourne Comedy Festival

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Geraldine Quinn’s always wanted to be a pop star, but has now come to reluctantly realise that she’s ‘too old, too overweight and too ginger’ to ever achieve her dream.

To which list you might want to add ‘too talented’, ‘too gutsy’ and ‘too savvy’ as well.

In this precision-targeted show she picks apart every cliché in pop, without it ever diminishing her admiration for the form. All the tricks of the trade, including outrageous lycra costumes, bizarre dancing, vocal showboating and corny songwriting are exposed in all their ridiculousness as GQ works towards the perfect pop number.

It’s a genre where Shakira can sing, ‘Starting to feel just a little abused/ Like a coffee machine in an office’ and no one bats an eyelid – so it’s ripe for ridicule. Yet any act billed as ‘musical parody’ will most likely have simply hijacked the song and changed the words till they’re about masturbation or drugs. Quinn, on the other hand, is the real deal.

Her powerhouse performance helps seal it, too. We may be in a tiny converted office in a trade union building, but to her it’s Shea Stadium. With her magnificent on-stage charisma, this accomplished cabaret performer is more of an eye-magnet than the plastic pop princesses will ever be.

It’s a shame, though, that she’s playing such a small room, not just because more people ought to see her, but because this is a show that would work so much better with all the razzmatazz of a big stage and matching production values.

Each point she makes is illustrated by a pop number of her own composition. Many mightn’t pass muster as stand-alone compositions, but in context they offer the perfect précis of the tricks she has just exposed, from improbably cute bubblegum pop with its ‘baby’-filled lyrics to tweeny country numbers. This latter song is probably the weakest in the show, however, being yet another comedy ballad that expresses the dark thoughts of a psychotic stalker. It seems to be a trend.

But by the end, she’s nailed the pop formula. Taking her cue from Abba’s Waterloo, she delivers the gloriously tasteless Gallipoli, a magnificently over-the-top number that uses another tragic battle as an analogy for love. From the intro that lays a disco backbeat to the Last Post to using ‘exposed Anzacs’ as a sexual euphemism, this is so wrong it can only be right.

If this doesn’t make her a pop star – though by rights it should – Quinn shouldn’t fear that she’s missed the fame boat. With ballsy attitude like she displays so convincingly here, she could always be a rock goddess instead. And in any case, the chart’s loss is our gain.

Review date: 2 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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