Review from Christ West, author of Eurovision! A History of Modern Europe through the World’s Greatest Song Contest (Melville House)
Hidden away beneath Waterloo station is the Network Theatre. On the first days of November 2019, it hosted Emily Roberts’ Eurovision musical Let me be the One.
It tells the story of Andy, who was born the night the Shadows came second in the contest, and has been a true fan since then. He met his girlfriend at a Eurovision party – but is now driving her to distraction, perpetually away at fan events or bringing the contest into every conversation. Eventually, she has enough, and leaves him. At the same time, Andy and fellow-fan Nicky are planning to enter a song for the next contest… I shan’t give away the ending, but it’s charming and exactly right for a comedy.
Neat story – but the real delight for any Eurovision fan is the show’s depth of affection for and knowledge of the contest. References pop up all over the place (I spotted Bardo, Nicki French, and Brotherhood of Man in the dance routines, and there were no doubt many more). We eavesdropped on those annoying conversations we have with people who dismiss the contest as ‘all political’ (it is political, in all sorts of subtle ways, but not in the way these people mean) or say ‘everyone in Europe hates us’. We saw the camaraderie between fans and the slightly bemused look we get from the rest of the universe. There were delightful (and affectionate) parodies of entries past and present. All in all, two hours of Eurovision delight!
Even without these special treats, however, the show impressed. It was clever and well thought-through. The staging was never dull, with neat ideas introduced into each song (my favourite was the Charpentier Te Deum played on kazoos mid-way through a song about ‘Post Eurovision Depression’). It was clearly done on a shoestring budget and using enthusiastic amateurs, but the feel was sharp and professional.
Roberts says she loves creating and putting on musicals, and is probably planning a new one as I write this. But it would be nice for other fans to see Let me be the One – if she does re-run it, go and check it out.