Immersive Abba exhibition to look back on the band’s rise to stardom
The Swedish pop sensations have given their seal of approval to the show at London’s Southbank Centre.
A new exhibition will tackle the rise of pop sensation Abba – in the context of “grim” 1970s Britain.
ABBA: Super Troupers will take place at the Southbank Centre, located just next to the station which shares the name of one of the band’s biggest hits – Waterloo.
Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad have given their seal of approval to the “immersive” show.
Paul Denton, producer at the Southbank Centre, said the band liked the treatment given by the London venue on another Nordic export, book characters the Moomins.
“Bjorn came out to see the Moomin show and got the kind of approach we wanted to take, how we’re doing exhibitions in a pioneering way and really liked that,” he said.
“This show will be in the context of the socio-political situation in the 1970s and how Abba rose to fame during quite a grim time for the UK.
“We’re looking at what was special about Abba and why they rose to prominence. I think they really like that.
“During the 1970s there was a three-day working week, a hung parliament and economically Britain was quite poor. Abba were seen as quite exotic creatures from Sweden.
“Obviously their music is what carried them through, their music caught the hearts and imagination of people. But this sets the scene.”
The exhibition will have no labels or text and will feature objects from private archives, as well as from the Abba museum in Stockholm.
A score will accompany visitors as they walk through different rooms, accompanied by a host.
Unseen archive material will include some of Abba’s original costumes, handwritten notes and sketches which the band created together, personal photographs, music and instruments.
And there will be “no mass collection of objects behind glass cabinets” to tell a story.
“Unlike a traditional exhibition, ours is an immersive theatrical experience,” Denton said.
“There will be a series of theatrical rooms. You might start in a 1970s living room where the archive is embedded in the table, and where you’ll have a crackling radio playing songs from the period.”
He added: “This is a completely new exhibition. ABBA The Museum already exists in Stokholm and is doing a wonderful job. Ours is a retelling of the Abba story”.
The exhibition will also touch on the relationships between the band members – Faltskog and Ulvaeus, as well as Lyngstad and Andersson were married.
Denton said: “We’re going to break down the lyrics…. charting the demise of their relationships through music and lyrics is really illuminating when you properly investigate that.”
The band’s Eurovision win, in 1974, with Waterloo, was a huge part of how the pop sensations rose to global prominence, with millions watching around the world.
Lyngstad said: “We are so excited that the exhibition is taking place at the Southbank Centre, which is just a few short steps away from Waterloo – this connection brings to mind very happy memories of the song that started our great success in Britain!”
She added: “We are thrilled to be supporting the new exhibition ABBA: Super Troupers in London, especially since ABBA have always been very appreciative of the love and support shown to us by our fans in the UK.”
Ulvaeus said: “Since our songs, which were written in the 70s, are still being played today it’s particularly interesting that the Southbank Centre exhibition is placing them in the temporal context in which they were created.
“We recorded Mamma Mia in 1975. What happened that year in the UK and in the world? One thing is for certain – it seems unbelievably long ago!”
Denton said of the band’s legacy: “They were great musicians and great lyricists when you break down the way they layered their sounds… there is no question about their influence.
“Music changed during that period but Abba… really was a mainstay throughout the 1970s and early 80s of what popular culture was.
“They were the stalwarts that continued to pump out great music that people really felt connected to.”
:: Abba: Super Troupers runs from December 14, 2017 to April 29, 2018 at London’s Southbank Centre.