As the lights go down and the crazy begins, you've already been given your country's flag to wave (it appears I've gone Norwegian for the evening!), Eurobeat’s first number immediately congers up the Eurovision buzz it's about to tribute. There's nothing particularly ground breaking about the production, but that's not what the show is aiming for. What the audience is after is an experience somehow akin to what they see on TV year upon year.
The evening takes place in Moldova and is hosted by Niko, their nation’s ageing reality talent show (Lee Latchford-Evans) and the glamorous Katya Kokov (Rula Lenska). Latchford-Evans does a stellar job generating the energy and enthusiasm of the character, masking the reality that his career is perhaps not all that he wants it to be. He kicks off the show excited by the enormity of the global stage, engaging well with the audience, (who are on side early), and we watch his ego begin to fracture during proceedings. Unfortunately though, the person chipping away at his self belief does not match her stage partner’s level of performance. It seems Lenska is struggling to remember her lines in the duologues with her co-host, and her audience rapport is not what it could be. We are all familiar with the way TV personalities come across at the real life Eurovision show, sometimes a little bothered by the ‘autocue’, but if this is a deliberate nod to that, it's not accurately executed. The relationship between the hosts is not especially affected by the imbalance of the performances though, as it is supposed to carry an unpleasant undertone anyway, but Latchford-Evans works hard to keep their scenes moving forward.
The show relies heavily on the commitment and energy of the ensemble. Almost all have a lead vocal, playing the ‘wannabe’ pop stars from each nation. There are stand out performances from Jessica Croll as Astrid Lungstromberg from Sweden, reminiscent of Lorena’s ‘Euphoria’, Jay Webb and George Olney as Effin, a sort of sci-fi Jedward duo, and what was ultimately the winning entry, performed by Chenelle Jay as Dhara Poppins. The choreography is high energy, enhancing the themes of each song and, together with some exotic costumes, really add to the homage to Eurovision.
The inclusion of mobile technology to encourage the audience to vote for their favourite and decide the final winner is a nice touch, maintaining the audience’s engagement with the performance. Additionally there are some most unexpected cameos ‘via satellite’ to deliver results of each nation’s votes.
Eurobeat is a slick, colourful, amusing homage to the ‘cheesiness’ of Eurovison. Every year millions tune in to watch the contest, and the cliches are in full flow in this show just as much as Graham Norton’s tongue in cheek voice-over for the BBC. These are the cliches that make the performance. The air of nostalgia, combined with the affectionate mockery of the whole concept makes the evening relatable because so much of the script consists of the things we say at home when watching it.
Eurobeat is playing at the Pleasance Grand at 9.45pm until 29th August.