You can't stop the beat
Eurovision spoof Eurobeat returns for another noise-filled year at the Fringe
This summer, those of us of voting age have been faced with a monumentally important decision. Such is its significance that once the ballots have been cast, the future of Europe will never be the same again. Voters on every side have campaigned, debated, and now there's only one question to be asked: who will win Eurobeat?
Based on the sequin-soaked wonder that is the Eurovision Song Contest, this show from Beckman Unicorn and the Pleasance sees ten countries compete to be crowned the glitteriest of them all. It's set in Moldova, a country determined to outshine the rest, which shouldn't be too hard given the amount of sequins the performers wear. Best of all, the audience have a say in who succeeds, as they can live text their vote while watching the show. All proceeds from the performance go to Waverley Care – a charity closely associated with Pleasance and the Fringe in general – which supports people living with HIV and Hepatitis C in Scotland.
Make no mistake, this show is a spoof all right, but it's a serious one at that. Composers Craig Christie and Andrew Patterson have written ten new songs for the production, which has 'entries'' from the likes of the UK, Spain and Sweden, and, for the first time, The Vatican. The soundtrack is available to buy, too (which leaves us wondering if it will be blaring in the Popemobile any time soon).
Like most sensible shows in fact, it has its own theme song, 'Breaking Through', which is something of an ironic title when you consider the show's history: it broke through to the Fringe some nine years ago, and has happily returned to give audiences the cheesiest, loudest, most pop-tastic night out.
Eurobeat first crept onto the Fringe radar in 2007 with a show called Almost Eurovision, which offered up the best bits of the continent-wide contest without any of those pesky politics. It's had some familiar names appearing in it over the years, notably Great British Bake Off star Mel Giedroyc, who this year took to YouTube to reprise her 2007 role as Boyka in order to announce the new host for 2016.
In fact, one of the most attractive things about this show is the star power. Centre stage is Lee Latchford-Evans (that's Lee from Steps to me, you and the 90s). He plays Nikolae Nikovsky: the three-time winner of Moldova's Got Talent, and sidekick to Eurobeat presenter Katya Kokov, played flawlessly by the iconic Rula Lenska.
When I speak to Lenska about the show she is in full Fringe mode. The car is coming to take her to the Pleasance launch, and she only has a few minutes spare to talk to me about the show. That doesn't stop her enthusing about it though, because that's what this show does best, after all: enthusiasm.
'It's innovative, it's funny, it's high energy,' she says, explaining what drew her to the project in the first place, which makes sense: the show is as recognisably entertaining as she is.
Lenska has a varied CV, with everything from Footballers' Wives to the Doctor Who serial Resurrection of the Daleks under her actor's belt, but she's no stranger to musical theatre like Eurobeat either, having starred in several West End shows (notably menopause musical Hot Flush and Make The Yuletide Gay, the Christmas show from the London Gay Men's Chorus).
She's taken a wee breather from musical theatre in recent times though, so the return of her famous vocal chords was something of a moment in itself. 'It's a musical and recently I've been doing more theatre pieces, so that was a challenge for me,' she explains. 'But it's a great experience being up on stage with Lee Latchford-Evans every night and audiences seem to really enjoy it.'
Though the show is based on Eurovision, you don't necessarily have to be a diehard fan of the contest to enjoy it. Even Lenska doesn't rave about the contest, which proves how accessible the show can be for a wide range of audiences.
'I can't say I've ever been a fan', she says on the annual contest, 'but that isn't where the spoof is. The spoof is that it's set in Moldova, which doesn't have the technological capabilities to hold the show it's trying to, and there's music from some strange countries like Vatican City.'
Fair warning though, 'music' means Europop music. Dress-up-in-sequins-and-do-a-90s-style-premeditated-dance music. Sing-into-a-diamante-encrusted-microphone music. Cheesy-but-secretly-you-love-it music. But therein lies that essential Eurobeat charm: it's loud, it's lavish and, for our sins, it's just like Eurovision.
Eurobeat, Pleasance Courtyard, until 29 Aug (not 16, 23), 9.45pm, £15.50--£17.50 (£13-£15).