The Eurovision Song Contest began in 1956, and was first broadcast in Australia by SBS back in 1983. It attracts a global audience of 125 million viewers and it introduced the world to Abba, Bucks Fizz, the song “Volare”… and Jedward. So it’s not all good.
It’s known as a celebration of camp and kitsch, but the history of Eurovision is also one of war, struggle, and pain. John Richards (co-creator/writer ABC1’s Outland) and Lee Zachariah (ABC2’s The Bazura Project) have written two short plays about the Eurovision legacy for this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival.
In the first piece a young journalist comes to interview an ageing singer about her “nul points” performance and gets more than he bargained for; and then in 1974 Portugal activists gather in a café awaiting the Eurovision song that will trigger the revolution (a historical fact – there’s a Eurovision song that started an uprising. Even Lady Gaga can’t claim that).
It’s directed by Lucas Testro (Channel 7’s Winners & Losers, 10’s Neighbours) and features a fantastic cast of diverse talents including Green Room Award winner Marta Kaczmarek (Shine, The Circuit, Offspring), Nick Colla (Neighbours, Blue Heelers, Wicked Science), Chris Broadstock (award-winning impro performer, Bed Of Roses, Blue Heelers), Jack Beeby (Australian Shakespeare Company’s Twelfth Night, and known for his cabaret under the nom-de-plum 6” Uncut), Noah Moon (better known as rapper Ca$h KRZMA), Angus Brown (acclaimed stand-up comedian) and Petra Elliott (musician, actor and host of live Doctor Who podcast Splendid Chaps).
Look behind the pageantry, sweep away the sequins, and see the truth: reputations are ruined, lives are destroyed, governments are laid low. Are the songs for Europe – or against it?
8 shows only, September 19 – 29, Thursday through Sunday at 7.45pm (6.45pm on the Sundays), at Broken Mirror, 2c Staley Street, Brunswick. Tickets on sale now at melbournefringe.com.au or call (03) 9660 9666.
While they’ve appeared on several podcasts together, this is the first collaboration between John Richards and Lee Zachariah- but why Eurovision?
Lee: That was my first question to John!
John: I love Eurovision! I love that while we always go on about the glitter and the kitsch – which is great – it also has this much darker side. There are so many real-life Eurovision stories that involve war, protest, and tragedy. One of the reasons they started Eurovision was to reunite nations that were at war only a few years previously. And then they made it a competition. Madness.
Lee: What won me over to the idea was when John told me about the 1974 Portuguese revolution that was basically kicked off by a Eurovision song. The more I read about it, the more desperate I was to tell that story. It’s really extraordinary.
Both John and Lee are best known as television comedy writers. John co-created and wrote ABC1 sit-com Outland, while Lee wrote and performed in The Bazura Project for ABC2. So why write short plays? And are they comedies?
John: I wouldn’t say it’s comedy. Well, not comedy comedy. It’s a drama with a high degree of wit. There are jokes, but you’ll also come away with some insight into the human condition. Or possibly just hungry.
Lee: I don’t believe that writers should be shackled to any single medium. The idea always comes first for me; then I have to figure out if it’s a feature script, a short film, a TV show, or a silly Twitter joke. It’s usually the last one.