A Thong For Europe is the latest in the Liverpool Royal Court’s long-running series of plays with a truly groan-worthy pun for a title. It is a new musical by Jonathan Harvey, the genius behind Beautiful Thing, Canary, Our Lady of Blundellsands and a million episodes of Coronation Street.
The show was commissioned and written after the announcement last October that Liverpool would host Eurovision. From initial idea to a fully-formed musical in six months? Could it be done? If anyone can do it, Jonathan Harvey can.
As the show begins, we are introduced to Lulu, from Waterloo (in Liverpool, not the old Eurostar terminus or the one Abba sang about). The death of her Eurovision-fan mother triggers an obsessive quest to get her ashes scattered on the stage at the Liverpool arena. With the arrival of Beryl, a contestant from the small country of Balkania (yes, I know) and her choreographer, Lulu sees an opportunity to sneak into the arena and carry out her mum’s last wish.
Then Sonia shows up, still milking her near-win in 1993 for all it’s worth, and documenting her struggles with coulrophobia on Instagram live.
Lindzi Germain is brilliant as the abrasive Lulu, Emma Bispham manages to avoid the clichés while portraying an Eastern European type. The great Eithne Browne plays the ghost of Lulu’s mother (don’t ask) and Andro Cowperthwaite rounds out the cast as Lulu’s fabulously camp son Terry, who gets a coming out scene like no other. And yes, Terry and Lulu are named for who you think they are.
The soundtrack is almost entirely Eurovision classics. Everything from Puppet on a String right up to Space Man is present and correct, and sung with gusto by the cast. Some of the links between the songs and the plot are perhaps a bit tenuous, but the performances are strong enough that you can overlook such contrivances. The show ends with the traditional “get the audience up and dancing” moment, and nobody hesitated to get out of their seat for a dance-along with the cast.
It is ridiculous, but it is also the most hilarious, entertaining and uplifting show I’ve seen in a long time. The jokes come thick and fast, with the audience roaring with laughter. Approximately 90% of the humour will go over the heads of non-Scousers, but that’s not an insurmountable problem for Woolybacks, just sit back and enjoy the music. Or do what the person sitting behind us did, and have someone with them to translate the Scouse references.
Trust me when I say this is far above the usual jukebox musical fare. A true tribute to Liverpool and the spirit of Eurovision. It’s on at the Royal Court until 27th May. Get tickets while you still can!