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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Novello Theatre     Autumn 2008

Accept the fact that this isn't My Fair Lady or even Mamma Mia, that it is parodying something that is almost beyond parody and taking you to the very outer reaches of camp for a couple of hours of pure silliness, and this Australian import can be a great Fun Night Out.

A hit at the Edinburgh Festival last year, Eurobeat is a parody of that extraordinary annual celebration of the bizarrely untalented, the Eurovision Song Contest.

[Note for non-Europeans: since 1956 this annual spectacular, broadcast throughout Europe, features one song - and one singer or group - from each country, with a convoluted voting system producing a winner, which immediately returns to well-deserved obscurity.

Well, yes, ABBA did win in 1974 and Celine Dion (for Switzerland - don't ask) in 1988, but things like Ding-Dinga-Dong (Netherlands 1975) and Hard Rock Hallelujah (Finland 2006) are more typical. Most people watch just to enjoy the over-the-top absurdity of it all.]

With songs by Craig Christie and Andrew Patterson and a book by Christie and director Glynn Nicholas, Eurobeat takes it all on, from the mangled English and dubious charm of the hosts, through the range of increasingly absurd entries, to the endless ritual of the adding up of the votes and declaration of a winner.

To increase the fun, as the audience enter the theatre they are assigned countries to cheer for, and actual voting is conducted by text messages and tallied during the interval, producing, they assure us, a different winner every night.

Les Dennis (yes, he of the TV game shows) and Mel Giedroyc (of comic duo Mel and Sue) are our hosts.

They are, we are told, the biggest celebrities available in beautiful downtown Sarajevo, from which the show is supposedly being broadcast, and both get fully into the spirit of convoluted syntax, double entendres and petty not-quite-off-camera squabbling.

The entries range from Poland's pretty-boy band singing about pulling hard and coming together to the Hungarian girls in dirndls with a folksong about barnyard fowl, from Sweden's ABBA clones to Germany's post-techno performance artists who are so cool that they don't sing at all.

Actually, if I have any complaint with Eurobeat it is that the parodies aren't always wild enough, with some of the songs - notably the Irish, Greek and Russian - being actually quite creditable pop, far better than most real Eurovision entries.

Anyway, if Eurovision has always been one of your secret guilty pleasures, you'll get all the in-jokes and love the parody. And if it's all new to you, you'll enjoy the total silliness of Eurobeat, and the real wit and invention that went into its creation.

In either case, you'd have to be a far more humourless old curmudgeon than I not to have a ball as you cheer along, sing along, and laugh along.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of  Eurobeat - Novello Theatre 2008