PRIZES AWARDED IN 1993: Paul Taylor on good, bad and 'nul' points in Tim Luscombe's Eurovision, at the Vaudeville

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The Independent Culture
Why are the ghost of the emperor Hadrian and a young queenie lad from Leeds making frantic efforts to 'out' Sergio, the Spanish entrant to the Eurovision Song Contest?

Why has the flame-haired Italian compere (Anita Dobson) become psychically possessed by the Spirit of Europe, which keeps jerking her about and speaking through her at the most embarrassing moments in a plummy English accent, as it preaches its gospel of love? More to the point, why am I being persecuted by these questions - am I coming unravelled, or is it just something I've eaten? Is there a doctor in the house?

The big thing you're supposed to learn from Tim Luscombe's Eurovision at the Vaudeville, London, is 'how important it is to run the risk of being hurt' and there are some who may feel that exposure to a show like this makes that risk no longer theoretical. Using the naff Eurovision ceremonies only as background, it focuses on a gay romance involving camp-as-hell Gary (excellent James Dreyfus). He just happens to be a Eurovision Song Contest freak and to be writing a fervid novel about Antinous, who sacrificed himself for love of Hadrian.

This somewhat rare combination of interests comes into its own in Rome, where, accompanied by his promiscuous friend Kevin (Charles Edwards), Gary has gone to watch the preparations for the latest contest. Like escapees from a toga party, the spirits of the sundered gay lovers materialise in the modern setting, seeking to be reunited. Handily, Sergio and Andreas, the Spanish and Greek entrants, turn out to have been born at the same places as the classical couple. Perhaps if they can be made to click sexually, the ancient twosome will be able to get into one another's togas again. A shame that Sergio is such a closet queen.

As you've probably guessed, all these shenanigans are a bit of a red herring. Both couples are, in fact, projections of the things that are stopping repressed Gary and libertine Kevin from admitting that they love one another. But with Dobson's compere acting as self-appointed agony aunt, that love eventually dares to speak its name.

The last time the Eurovision Song Contest reared its tacky head in the West End was in the Norwegian musical Which Witch, where the Executioner was played by the man who scored the famous 'nul points' in the 1978 finals. One of the few nice things you can say about Luscombe's piece is that it isn't quite as bad as that, and it's also true that Miss Dobson ('Grazie, Macedonia') performs with a likeable verve that transcends the material. It's not a bright idea, though, to try to spoof something that is itself beyond parody, as is proved by the cod winning entry 'Bim Bam Bom', a ditty indistinguishable from the genuine article. The worst moments lurch queasily between shrieking camp and lachrymose uplift. 'My stomach is flying around,' cries Andreas, on the point of bedding Sergio. His wasn't the only one.

Vaudeville Theatre (WC2) box office: 836 9987