For the first time ever, the Eurovision Song Contest, that bedrock of camp, international rivalries, and musical oddities, has been cancelled due to the ongoing lockdown.
For such an iconic contest to be completely off the calendar is unthinkable, and indeed there are a number of special events to bring a bit of Euro fizz, glitter, puns and naughtiness into our living rooms. Hold on to your disco balls and shake your sequins!
The first happened last night, as The Showstoppers, a group known for their clever improvised “one night only” musicals, staged their Alternative Eurovision, with sixteen entries from around the globe being parodied with spot-on observation, celebrity judges and commentators, and even a special treat from the archives.
Streamed live, the links did have the odd sound glitch, but the song videos (all edited by co-host Andrew Pugsley) were perfectly judged, very funny, and wholly representative of their source nations. The amount of work and flair that went into these pieces must be applauded, especially capturing those moments when the artist is “introduced”.
From the technical body moves of Latvia to the heavy rock angst of Russia (in a shed), from the political penguin point-scoring of Czech Republic to the self-love of Sweden, The Showstoppers and their guest singers brought the magic and craziness of the annual head-scratching spectacle of song to the screen.
Even “European expert” Tony Cordial (played with earnest style by Philip Pellew) brought the party bore to the table, cut off in his string of statistics delivered with an intensity only a mother could love. And Cyprus’s archive treat (courtesy of Mike McShane) made the wind blow free.
Add a bunch of Biggins, an amp of Arlene (“we’re all living with our rubber gloves at the moment”, about Greece), plus Claire Sweeney (“sat on the bleedin’ stepladder”, about Slovakia) and London Hughes and you have a recipe for fun, fun, fun.
I particularly enjoyed Portugal’s family of puppets (Arlene: “a tune, and toys”), Montenegro and Ireland with attempts to play instruments, Germany’s Bundesliga (Tom Allen: “a butterfly playing football in the Premier League”), and Josie Lawrence’s guest spot for Denmark (“cheeky monkey”).
Interviews in the green room were done by phone, a romance played out, and a healthy dose of affectionate ribbing ran throughout, even to the voting and eventual winner reveal. It was hilarious from the start and ended with The Showstoppers sharing their own version of “what a UK entry might be”.
Raising money for the Care Workers Charity, each donation gave a chance to vote for your favourite entry, before the contestants in the green room had their say. By the end of the stream, £4k had been raised (now double that), and you can continue to support at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/the-showstoppers.