This year’s Alternative Eurovision was as close as it have ever been. Our judges have tallied up the points and it looks like we have a winner – and it is not who the audience chose.
The brainchild of theproducersUK with a helping hand from This Is Cabaret, this offbeat show held on the eve of the official shindig, has been a staple at what is now known as the Underbelly Festival since 2010. It is a genius creation which has brought together many of the leading lights of musical comedy from around the UK as well as showcasing talent of the future. Each act gets to represent a country for the night – previous winners have brought “home” the trophy for France, England and, er, Tanzania – and sing for their lives in the vainglorious hope that, come the end of the night, the audience will cheer for them loudest.
This time around, a motley crew of cabaret veterans including Sarah-Louise Young, Amber Topaz, Desmond O’Connor and Frank Sanazi did battle with the up-and-coming Ruby Darlings and Sadie Sinner. But who do we reckon was the overall winner on the night? In true Eurovision style, we’ll count down the points…
No points (null points) for the event’s scheduling, forcing diehard Eurovision fans to choose between the festivities in the Spiegeltent and the televised live semi-final. When will science give us cloning machines?
One point (un point) The big-screen opening montage of past Eurovision successes deserves at least a point for giving us all a retro camp high. Seeing videos of legendary performances from the likes of Bucks Fizz and Gina G gave the audience all the excuse they needed to wave their arms like a cruise ship-worth of joyfully drowning passengers.
Two points (deux points) The parade of eye-popping costumes, not least that of host Anna Greenwood (more below), too deserve some points. The event had more lamé frocks, PVC ruff collars and sheer dressing gowns then one could poke a sequined-encrusted stick at.
Three points (trois points) go to Sadie Sinner’s Netherlands act – a soulful, gently tongue-in-cheek power ballad featuring the refrain “You, Me, Us, We”, urging Europe to come together via the medium of music.
Four points (quatre points) go to our effervescent host of the evening Anna Greenwood who skilfully kept a bevvied audience both in line and entertained. Bedecked in frocks embellished with fluttering butterflies and sparkling pom poms, the star of First Dates whisked us seamlessly through the eight competing countries.
Five points (cinq points) awarded to Noel Diggity – a Noël Coward inspired toff representing a time-forgotten Gibraltar. His song Don’t Let’s Be Beastly included proposals to share the BBC with our luckless German neighbours, and a poke at Russia: “Putin wants to make the gays pop off, but he keeps taking his top off!”
Six points (six points) to the ludicrous, irreverent interactive quiz which served as Anna’s introduction to the country being represented by the next act. Clues ranged from “Where was football banned in 1457?” to “Which country has the world’s tallest hedge?”
Seven points (sept points) to the ever-lovely 1920s-style Spiegeltent. No South Bank summer would now be complete without this adult playground.
Eight points (huit points) to Desmond O’Connor, representing England, in a strong yet stable flag-waving attack on the Tories, performed to the track of Tom Jones’s Delilah.
Nine points (neuf points) to the hilarious Frank Sanazi who flew all the way from the Fatherland accompanied by a larger-than-life Donald Trump (Roland Saunders, resplendent in pink hosiery and bejewelled heels). Sanazi’s song was awash with near-the-knuckle lyrics including “Jackboots are made for walking” and “I’m all killer – no filler!”
Ten points (dix points) to The Ruby Darlings, appearing on behalf of Slovenia. Fronted by a racist and smutty Melania Trump (“I came to the USA for love… love of money”), she sang of her desperate sex life with the president dropping in salacious conversation snippets like “forget about your phone-tapping, Trump, how about some clit-tapping for your First Lady?” and “make my vagina great again!”
Eleven points (onze points) for Amber Topaz (Ireland), for her winning parody of Sia’s Chandelier with the lyrics reworked around the theme of excessive Irish drinking (think “I’m gonna live like cirrhosis doesn’t exist, like it doesn’t exist”). In keeping with Eurovision tradition, we even enjoyed a Bucks Fizz-style costume change, as she speedily stripped from a strapless gown into a little Celtic frock for her Riverdance interlude.
Twelve points (douze points) to the unstoppable Sarah-Louise Young who kicked up a storm with her pastiche of Nicola Sturgeon. Her set brilliantly combined pathos and pride as she paid tribute to Scottish invention, innovation and achievement, and included an emotional plea to retain our union with Europe. She was accompanied by a musician described as “100% Angus steak bagpipes” for an impassioned rendition of Bring back my Europe to me. Perhaps Sarah-Louise set the tone of what is to come – will an independent Scotland soon be the standout performance at a future Eurovision? For us, she packed biggest punch of the evening.
Alternative Eurovision was produced by theproducersUK in association with This Is Cabaret (that’s us).