Edinburgh Fringe 2016
A ten-song version of the Eurovision Song Contest that plays on the competition’s quirks doesn’t quite reach the right level of parody to provide belly-laughs, but still provides a wonderful visual spectacle and consistent chuckles.
Eurobeat is a parody of Eurovision, presented in a format identical to the song contest itself. The competition is taking place in Moldova, and is hosted by local celebrities Katya (Rula Lenska) and Nikolai (Lee Latchford-Evans). Ten countries will perform tonight, and the audience will vote on the winning song at the end of the evening.
The set is astounding – looking like it has been lifted directly from Eurovision. There is a large screen surrounded by decorative bars that change colour throughout the show, and four staging blocks that are moved around by a talented cast of singers and dancers. The lighting is colourful and camp – a different set-up for every song, from the pounding disco lights for Sweden’s dance anthem, to the darker, more serene set-up during Poland’s ballad.
Katya and Nikolai provide commentary in between each performance in the true camp Eurovision style. Innuendo, bad jokes and a tumultuous relationship between the two is the order of the day here. Despite this being a parody, many of the jokes feel lazy – not bad enough to be a good parody, and not clever enough to be good. Some border on xenophobic, and the occasional political reference feels out of place in this jovial environment.
Latchford-Evans gives a strong performance as the energetic co-host (and former reality TV star) Nikolai, although his accent occasionally disappears completely. Lenska delivers a nervy performance, occasionally stumbling or delaying her words. Katya clearly despises Nikolai’s overnight success, although her put-downs are not as quick or venomous as her character appears capable.
The performances of the singers and dancers are near faultless. Dance routines and vocal performances as sharp and rehearsed as those seen on Eurovision help keep the audience engaged despite a very average script and disappointing lyrics. Many of the lyrics are cheap innuendoes or plays on stereotypes, often accompanied by pseudo-sexual gestures or cheap visual gags, such as a group of nuns representing the Vatican City. Indeed, many of the songs are one-trick ponies, becoming dull after the first chorus. It doesn’t help that the sound set-up means that we often can’t hear the vocals above the backing tracks.
Production values are high for the show – credits the end reveal a huge cast and crew, and the visual impact of the show should be applauded. Unfortunately the script doesn’t contain a story – the is literally a watered-down Eurovision Song Contest that doesn’t engage the audience in anything other than pondering of who will win. This feels like a missed opportunity with the two hosts having an interesting relationship is never truly explored.
There are some nice touches too. The audience gets to vote for their favourite entry, and having been given a flag on the way in, we’re told that we can’t vote for our own country. The vote is conducted by text message, and costs £1, with profits going to two local charities.
The audience’s original enthusiasm waned as the show went on, as it became clear that the same format was being repeated over and over. I felt that the show would have been just as effective with less countries, as the same joke structure became tiresome by the time the tenth entry same around.
Though lacking in depth, Eurobeat is fun, and taken at face value I can recommend this to fans of Eurovision.