Adelaide Fringe 2020: Disco Conversion Therapy

Who: The Dollar Bin Darlings

Where: The Attic at Royal Croquet Club

When: 20-23 Feb

Tickets: $35 here

Disco ain’t dead, baby! Disco Conversion Therapy undeniably proves it with their raucous, glitter-soaked manifesto at the Royal Croquet Club. The Dollar Bin Darlings take us on a deep dive through the origins, development, and eventual demise of the disco phenomenon – and most importantly, why we should care.

I promise this isn’t like any other ‘lecture’ you’ve ever heard, though. If a party had a baby with a history seminar delivered by an unashamedly campy gay man, this show would be it. Jonny of the Dollar Bin Darlings is an absolute delight as the show’s main presenter, delivering quip after quip with a sly wink and some truly outlandish costumes. Jonny and his co-presenter shimmy across the stage to their live DJ’s tunes, celebrating the joyful individuality of the disco era and inviting the audience to join the party too.

Disco Conversion Therapy’s story is firmly rooted in the socio-political context of the 60s and 70s and underpinned by solid research (I was delighted to find out that ‘disco historians’ actually exist!). As any good ‘lecture’ should do, the show has a central thesis: disco was a genre of radical inclusivity, a liberating space that redefined the way we party. Through disco, the dancefloor became a political space where people from all walks of life – gay, straight, black, white, male, female – could dance together and free themselves from the confines of heteronormative white society. You’ll hear little-known stories from throughout disco’s history, from the true inspiration behind Saturday Night Fever to the violent ‘Disco Demolition Night’ baseball game. Black women’s sexual liberation is emphasised as the show makes a hilarious case that ‘disco is a female orgasm’. Even genre aficionados like myself will come away with a new appreciation for the significance of disco and its emancipatory power.

Of course, not all facets of society appreciated disco’s radically inclusive spirit. The end of the show goes on to detail how disco was first appropriated by the mainstream, then pushed underground by an anti-disco movement that felt threatened by its elevation of the marginalised. Though it seemed that Jonny ran out of time to give this section the attention it deserved, the show ended with the jubilant assertion that disco never died – in the words of Gloria Gaynor, “it simply changed its name to protect the innocent.” Disco’s spirit of diversity and individuality lives on, and it was impossible not to feel it as the audience were cheered on to move their chairs aside and start a dance party.

Whether you’re a disco lover or sceptic, this show illuminates the defiant spirit and enduring relevance of a genre all too often reduced to cheesy platform shoes and afro wigs. Disco Conversion Therapy truly exceeded my expectations, so as Aretha once sang, ‘jump to it!’

4.5/5 stars

Tamika Glouftsis

(P.S. for a taste of authentic underground disco music, check out the Disco Conversion Therapy Spotify playlist!)

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