You might recognise Jonathan Harvey’s name from his sitcom, Gimme Gimme Gimme. What you probably don’t know about him is that he’s also a regular punter at the Royal Court. When Liverpool was announced as the host of Eurovision, Harvey had an idea – would they Royal Court fancy staging his brand new Eurovision-themed play?
That was less than six months and A Thong For Europe might have broken the odd record in bringing a major production to fruition in less time that it takes for the votes to come in.
An opening monologue with the backdrop of a scouse funeral sets things up nicely and Lindzi Germain (as Lulu) sells the living daylights out of it. Her dear, departed mother (played here So Haunt Me-style by Eithne Brown) longed to go to Eurovision.
So with the song contest coming to Liverpool, what better opportunity to scatter her Mum’s ashes on the vaunted stage, with the help of scouse starlet Sonia, her possibly-gay son, a pan-European act who has giant milkers and a fantasist dance teacher?
If that all sounds very Royal Court, well, it is. Harvey – writing his second Eurovision-themed play – has obviously done his homework on what goes down well at the theatre and serves it up in lashings here. A Eurovision-themed soundtrack may delight or appal in equal measure, but it’s all going in the same direction, namely a thoroughly bonkers plot that frames a lot of very silly performances, plenty of scouse vernacular and oodles of don’t-bring-granny humour. Unless your granny is the sot that loves Royal Court productions, anyway.
A standout scene involves the inverted coming-out story of Terry (Andro Cowperthwaite), much to the dismay of Lulu, who struggles to come to terms with her son’s… heterosexuality. Germain and Keddy Sutton (playing a variety of roles, all very much to her strengths) take the play by the scruff of the neck and wring every last laugh out of it.
Also competing with these notorious scene-stealers are Emma Bispham as a largely bonkers Eurovision act from Balkania, who may have more a backstory than is initially apparent, and Gemma Dobson as a dizzy choreographer with a secret. The cast are backed up by an on-stage band, which does make one nervous as to whether theatreland’s much-vaunted problem of the audience enjoying themselves a little too much might be repeated here, but it’s all good, clean fun.
While there is mayhem and nonsense, the Royal Court projects a forceful message of inclusivity that feels welcome and – given the subject matter – necessary. That said, A Thong For Europe isn’t subtle, but who wants subtlety where Eurovision is concerned?
Much like the spectacle itself, better to sit back and wallow in the excess and sheer joy of it all. For Eurovision fans heading to Liverpool it will be a rare, timely treat; for Royal Court regulars it’s business as usual.
A Thong For Europe
Until 27 May