Such a packed Saturday it has to be divided into two blog entries (ooh, get me!): after a longish lie-in (after Friday night's Quiet Drink With Mel in the Retro Bar) I rolled uptown, braved the mouth breathers of Forbidden Planet (for the final piece of Grant Morrison's ASS), met a post-gym TSB for lunch in Balans and then headed off to the Novello Theatre for the 5pm showing of Eurobeat the Musical.
Credit goes to TSB for booking tickets; I'd never heard of it until quite recently. A premise so simple it's difficult to imagine why it's never been done before: a musical satirising the euphoric silliness of The Eurovision Song Contest. Eurovision really divides people, even The Gays; I have friends who host extravagantly boozy Eurovision parties every year and I know people who go to great lengths to avoid it. I love it, not so much for the music (which is generally forgettable - although I still occasionally find Latvia's gloriously daft Wolves of the Sea inhabiting my head - "we are robbing you blind, I hope you don't mind", camply performed by the politest pirates ever) but its eventness, the peculiar combination of European earnestness and, well, glittery nonsense.
Anyway. One might legitimately ask, is it possible to parody something that's already so parodic? Somehow, Eurobeat works - on the same level as Mamma Mia, I think, in that one almost instantly suspends critical faculties in the face of an onslaught of sheer joyful exuberance. Ridicule is not only nothing to be scared of; in the case of Eurobeat, ridiculousness is to be actively embraced. We bought in to it wholesale, quite literally, purchasing flags, "clackers" (rattly affairs which made noisy clapping much easier) and flashing light-up horn/klaxon affairs. One is encouraged to cheer, clack and hoot in support of the acts (with much horn/clackers innuendo), and it's the only theatre production I've been to where one is advised to leave one's mobile 'phone on.
On entering the theatre, one is randomly allotted a country by taking a badge from baskets offered by sequined ushers. As luck would have it, TSB and I were both Germany for the evening. The merchandise stand then beckoned, and we accessorised appropriately. Helpfully, drinks can be brought into the auditorium. It was a little disappointing to see the stalls seats only half full; I imagine Eurobeat with a full audience would be a thing of beauty and wonder indeed.
The set-up is that we are at an actual Eurovision show, hosted by "sunny, safe and secure" Sarajevo. Our master and mistress of ceremonies were Sergei (Les Dennis) and Boyka (a superb Mel Giedroyc - the non-lesbian half of Mel & Sue), and we rolled through a series of performances from ten different European countries (mercifully truncated - apparently the real Eurovision is now up to 40something). These accurately lampooned a variety of Eurovision styles, from Ireland's Johnny Loganesque dry ice power ballad of gratingly sentimental Oirishness (the chorus is "la la la la la la la - sing along if you know the words!") to Greece's bespectacled Nana Mouskouri lookalike who suddenly turns poledancer.
At the interval, one had to vote by text (apparently there's a different winner each night). My three choices were:
Poland's Toomas Jerker and the Hard Pole Dancers, with Together Again
Hungary's Molnar Sisters, with the chicken entrailtastic Apró Madarakkal
and Russia's KGBoyz, with Ice Queen.
Having worried that we might not get into sufficiently party mood, we found ourselves drawn in almost immediately, cheering and honking along with the best of them - and laughing in recognition of all those Eurovision flourishes (the concept of the Big Reveal, exploited so successfully by Bucks Fizz, is noted), including Boyka's halfway song, I'm Sarajevo (Taste Me!), in which she starts off dressed as a turnip picked to be part of a stew eaten by a king. In clumsier hands, this could all be offensive, even racist. Because it's all so affectionately, skilfully done, it doesn't come across that way at all.
In our showing, there was a Russia/UK cliffhanger, with the UK winning. That'd never happen. Failure of audience imagination, I suspect. The UK contribution was an authentically anodyne nul points duet, I Love To Love To Love (Love), performed again to much celebratory hooting and clacking.
And then we went home, snoozed and went to Duckie.