Alternative Eurovision review

Steve Bennett at the Udderbelly

Eurovision not camp enough for you? Then the Udderbelly’s annual alternative extravaganza of drag queens, erotic dancers and glorious bad taste would surely have hit the spot, making the most kitsch Europop outfit look as drab as Adrian Chiles on a camping weekend in Bromsgrove.

Featuring more performers than could ever be financially viable, this thoroughly entertaining night perfectly recreated the tongue-in-cheek spirit with which Eurovision is best received – if not always intended – with the merry audience quick to buy into the flamboyance and brio.

Kudos goes to Spymonkey's Petra Massey and Toby Park for creating the atmosphere, hosting with expert silliness and verve. They mixed physical shenanigans, ridiculously over-used catchphrases (‘that’s a little bit racist’) and an hilariously bipolar Terry Wogan impersonation to bounce the night along, and deftly filled in on the occasions when the ambitious technical requirements proved a little too demanding.

The tone was set from the get-go, thanks to an audacious turn from Ophelia Bitz, representing Vatican City, her Bon Jovi number backed up by gleefully offensive choreography involving simulated nun sex and casual Pope-sanctioned abortions, providing more than enough outrage to give the less broad-minded an aneurysm. Poor Tom Bell couldn’t follow, especially with a low-impact routine miming out adverts, which didn’t fit at all with the musical ethos of the night.

Some acts tried to parody the Eurovision genre: most successfully Dusty Limits with his hilariously interminable Je Suis Eurostar; although Des O’Connor produced an uncannily accurate spoof of Irish balladeering with a romantic ode about Fred and Rose West and EastEnd Cabaret were spot-on with their Eighties electropop number. Meanwhile some turns went straight for the strange, notably reigning London’s Next Top Tranny champ Fancy Chance as Kim Jong Il/Prince; while La JohnJoseph seemed to offer a artful, peculiar, but unexciting mime act, until a delightful payoff turned it around.

Some circuit regulars did their familiar acts, including Mr B Gentleman Rhymer’s spiffing fusion of hip-hop and refined Surrey vowels; Christopher Green’s leggy country chanteuse Tina C belting out platitudes and aloof insults in equal measure, or Sarah-Louise Young’s Spandex-clad Kasia capturing the bleakness of immigrant life, but with a good tune.

But others tried something more ambitious just for the occasion, such as Ginger & Black, representing ‘Bethlehem’ by rejigging Daz Sampson’s 2006 UK Eurovision entry Teenage Life, not entirely successfully thanks to limited rap skills – though with refreshing honesty when they admitted their failings.

In the end, though, the contest – and there was one, based on an unscientific audience clapometer – was probably a three-horse race, between current title-holders Bourgeois & Maurice, techno tranny Jonny Woo and mash-up maestros Rayguns Look Real Enough. There would have been a fourth, but for some reason the brilliant Stomp-like precision percussion duo Up & Over It were out of competition.

With their arch, bitchy attitude, immaculately ornate hair and make-up and acidic songs, Bourgeois & Maurice were probably made for this night; and their bitter offering tonight was certainly a highlight. Meanwhile, Woo reclaimed every homophobic insult every thrown his way with a dazzlingly impressive performance of Faggot – an infectious dance-floor filler in its own right, with him prowling the stage with the domineering boldness the explicit lyrics demand. But the night was to belong to double act Rayguns, making pub rock gloriously entertaining with fast-cut mash-ups. But mainly, perhaps, because one of them performed in a ridiculous mascot outfit, and leapt on to the stage with an unforgettable cry of ‘Release the tiger!’ Very silly.

Surely more fun was had in the purple upside-down cow than would have been had in all of Dusseldorf this weekend, thanks to the (almost unanimously) superb bill producers Time Out Live put together. Boom bang a bang, indeed.

Published: 15 May 2011

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