A “Super Trouper” is the brand name of a famously indestructible, brilliant spotlight; the Southbank Centre has plenty of these to spare (including one which has illuminated Björn Ulvaeus, no less), so it is by gazing at one and listening to ABBA’s hit song about it that we begin our guided tour.
Like the Southbank’s previous Adventures In Moominland, a live tour guide and the gentle recorded narration of Jarvis Cocker guide us through nine exquisitely detailed rooms, including a forest, a recording studio, a nightclub toilet, and even an aeroplane. Every little room is jam-packed with memorabilia (much lent from ABBA The Museum in Stockholm), including original pencil-and-paper scores by Benny and Björn, ticket stubs, merchandise, and, of course, ABBA’s iconic costumes.
The whole guided tour lasts only an hour, which means there isn’t quite enough time to really study and admire all the memorabilia on offer, or the sumptuous level of design in each room, nor to hear more from the expert guides or ask questions. But what a whirlwind hour it is, through ABBA’s early years, Eurovision, the final album and their continuing legacy.
The guide tells us — entirely believably — that some visitors find themselves in tears by the end. The sad apartment from the music video to “One Of Us” is faithfully recreated, where we learn about ABBA’s final album and the band’s eventual separation. There is indeed a strangely mournful and melancholy atmosphere to much of the tour, but the opportunity to experience ABBA history in such an immersive way is too good to miss, and you’ll still leave shining the sun, smiling, having fun, feeling like a number one.
ABBA Super Troupers: the Exhibition is booking till 29 April 2018.