First Night: Song for Europe enjoys camp spirit: Eurovision

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The Independent Online
HOW different, how very different from the professional life of our own dear Katie Boyle.

Last night the West End staged a gay comedy about the Eurovision song contest. Anita Dobson, once of Eastenders, played Katia Europa, song contest hostess who, possessed by the spirit of Europe, gives a televised lecture to the world on the glories of European harmony, while a Eurovision fanatic, Gary, and his friend Kevin find happiness backstage. Not an idea which you might automatically be tempted to take to Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's home and ask him to cough up pounds 150,000 backing to put on the show.

But Tim Luscombe, the writer and director of the show at the Vaudeville Theatre and founder of the London Gay Theatre Company, did just that when he heard that Sir Andrew was a fellow song contest buff.

And it worked. Sir Andrew liked the script, enjoyed the pastiche songs by composer Jason Carr and the pastiche wholesome lyrics by Luscombe. The show was staged at Sir Andrew's private festival at his Berkshire home and he then financed it for the West End.

Thirty-two-year-old Luscombe says it has all been like a dream, and at the aftershow party last night was still regaling guests with Eurovision song contest trivia such as the fact that every winning Eurovision song has had a key change before the third chorus except Non Ho L'Eta, sung by Gigliola Cinquetti in 1964.

In the audience were former song contest entrants, including Bucks Fizz, Rose Marie and The Brotherhood of Man, and of course the contest's real life hostess for so many years, Katie Boyle.

Though this was a very uneven comedy, last night may yet prove to have been a seminal moment in West End theatre history, not for anything that happened on stage but for the arrangement of the back rows of the stalls, which were re-designed to have tables with drinks in front of them. The laughter from the rear stalls grew louder as the show progressed. Now there's an idea that could run and run.