Rachel Quilligan chats with Melissa Western about her new cabaret show and a new form of audience involvement.

The husband and wife cabaret duo Melissa Western and Tnee Dyer have brought fifties talkback radio to the stage with their new show Sweet, Sour and Saucy.

“We have a great love for the golden standards, and initially we were just looking for an interesting way to present that,” says Western. “We realised that framing it within a talkback radio but with characters that were stuck in the fifties was really fun, and it meant that we had much more creative licence … and gives it this really sweet little vintage twist.”

“I don’t know if this is our way of doing self-counselling for our marriage, but we create alter egos for different shows. Barbara and Barry are versions of ourselves but pushed to the extreme – so inevitably real life will come into the show in a way that we can exaggerate and make fun of.”

Despite the retro vibe, the show uses modern technology to add spontaneity to every performance, with audiences invited to submit stories and love song dedications through the ‘Barbara and Barry’ website.

“We made the second half an interactive ‘studio audience’ component,” says Western.

“We trialled it in Warwick a couple of months ago and it was just electric … because we really didn’t know what was going to happen, and neither did anyone else. People went to places that we didn’t think they would. There was all sorts of innuendo. There were phone numbers being swapped between audience members. It was hilarious.”

“It’s a really exciting component. That second half means that every show is genuinely very different from every other show.”

Sweet, Sour and Saucy plays at the Judith Wright Centre 5 to 7 February. For more information see our event guide listing.