Review by Daz Gale
May has arrived and that means the highlight of the year is truly here. I’m of course talking about the Eurovision Song Contest which this year has more of a buzz than ever as the UK prepares to host for the first time in 25 years. The question is how do you make Eurovision even more fabulous and, let’s be honest, bonkers? Combine it with musical theatre, of course. And thus, Eurovision (Your Decision) returns for a third year.
Originating at the now sadly closed Above The Stag, the third incarnation of Eurovision (Your Decision) keeps that venues name alive, moving to one of London’s newest performing spaces Wonderville as well as performances in Brighton and the host city of Eurovision this year, Liverpool.
The basic premise of Eurovision (Your Decision) is a celebration of entries from the past “150 years” (perhaps the slightest exaggeration but this sets the tone beautifully) of the Eurovision Song Contest. Past winners are joined by other iconic performances to make up 15 entries battling it out to be crowned the winner of the audience vote that evening. With the potential to have a different winner every night, the power is in the hands of the intimate audience and so the stakes have never felt higher. Forget fame across Europe and the potential to launch a lifetime career as a Eurovision legend, the ability to win over a hundred slightly tipsy audience member is what truly matters here.
The best way to describe this show is a great tribute to the wackiest and most absurd aspects of the song contest, amplified to a truly chaotic and comical nature. Whether it’s Sweden’s Loreen dancing like a crab, Serbia looking far from interested during their performance before thanking their sponsors Meth and a song called ‘A Little Peace’ featuring the performer getting increasingly angrier with an unsupportive member of the audience. With that, you get the idea. Embracing the true madness of Eurovision, importantly this show always has a tongue firmly in its cheek and is designed as a loving tribute to Eurovision as opposed to laughing at it.
Out of the 15 performances, the UK got 3 entries with twists on three truly iconic entries. Sonia was more Scouse than ever before as she spoke her way through ‘Better The Devil You Know’, Bucks Fizz ‘Making Your Mind Up’ iconic outfit revealed actually revealed more than anyone was expecting, while the already innuendo-filled nature of ‘Flying The Flag’ by Scooch, the band that should have been bigger than The Beatles, saw one reviewer have a dildo thrusted in their face as a straight faced performer asked “Would you like something to suck on for landing?. The reviewer was me. What a Sunday!
Impressively, the 15 performers (often in groups) and the hosts are all played by an impressively versatile and tireless cast of four. While this did mean the eventual winner (Scooch on my night, for those interested – helping their quest to worldwide domination) were one member short as the host had to quickly change out of one outfit to get into her flight attendants one and missing half the song in turn, you can’t fault their commitment to the multiple roles each of them had to take on.
Tim McArthur and Lucy Penrose took on the roles of show hosts Demetrious and Katie, perfectly encapsulating the often forced, uncomfortable and at times cringeworthy banter the thrown together hosts often have, at one point even laughing “Chemistry” they were a hilariously exaggerated example of Eurovision at its best, particularly when trying to maintain order during the madness that was the jury vote (which, of course, meant nothing in the end). They also doubled up as several of the performers with Tim McArthur mesmerising us all with his impressive belly-dancing skills on ‘Everyway That I Can’ and doing his best Verka Serduchka for the classic ‘Dancing Lasha Tumbai’ in a true standout performance.
The cast were completed by Leigh Pollard and Steven Serlin who both got some true standout performances of the night. With Leigh playing a young Celine Dion, representing Switzerland, impressing as much with her awkward mid-vote interview as she did through her performance. Stevens highlights include Eurovision legend Jonny Logan for Ireland and leading the band for Iceland’s ‘Think About Things’.
Act two begins with a different guest performer at every show and for the performance I went to, we were treated to two numbers from the sensational Lizzie Bea, taking a break from wowing audiences up and down the country in Sister Act. The most “normal” thing about the show, Lizzies vocals were as phenomenal as ever – though her post-performance interview brought things back down to the mad level the audience had grown accustomed to.
Written by the shows stars Tim McArthur and Lucy Penrose, Eurovision (Your Decision) is a consistently hilarious delight. The writing manages to get the tone just right, paying a great homage to the contest while amplifying moments to create true comedy all the whole treading the right balance to still embrace everything there is that make so many of us love Eurovision. The farcical and chaotic moments are a testament to the fantastic writing, overly scripted in the best possible way and feeling scarily like the real thing.
I didn’t know what to expect with Eurovision (Your Decision) – it certainly wasn’t this. Always hilarious, barking mad and simply brilliant, it’s a beautiful tribute to the only event in the calendar that is camper than Christmas. I may not have been lucky enough to get tickets to see the contest in Eurovision this year but with (Your Decision) it really was the next best thing – and hey, at least justice was served on this occasion with Scooch winning ahead of their soon to be announced worldwide stadium tour. Pure Euphoria, this show really was Flying The Flag for fantastic theatre.
Eurovision (Your Decision) plays at London Wonderville until 13th May with stops in Liverpool on 5th & 6th May and Brighton on 10th – 11th May. Tickets from https://abovethestag.com/eurovision-your-decision
Photos by PBGStudios