Songs for EuropeNina D. Flanagan writes …

I’m a fan of Eurovision. Every year I gather a group of friends, assemble European snacks, alcohol and scorecards: the strangest acts usually get the highest points from us. We vow to travel to the winning country and then forget the continent until Julia Zemiro ads herald the next advent of the competition. Songs for Europe exposes the inherent superiority and ignorance in all of this.

Relatively young compared to Europe, Australia does not have the baggage of the participating countries: the conflict, dictatorships and revolutions. The nearest that we get to acknowledging these undercurrents is blaming political scoring when the oddest, shiniest acts don’t win. Songs For Europe provides some deeper political context for the Eurovision Song Contest. It shows the impacts, both personally for the entrants and on a wider cultural scale, of the performances and their reception.

The plays are creative dramatisations of two entries that came last in their respective years. The first explores the mental legacy of the failure of a performer who has continued her career both in spite of and in reaction to her night of grand disappointment. The second play examines the pivotal role of a Eurovision entry as a signal for Portugal’s Carnation Revolution.

The performances are stellar, including accents that left me wondering if the actors are European, and there was not a missed cue or garbled line to be found. While not light-hearted subject matter, there were plenty of laughs from a snappy script and brilliant actors.

The show was bright and fun, insightful and educational. Overall, it was an impressively rendered telling of loss, hope, art and spirit. And I now know a whole lot more about everyone’s favourite song contest.

Songs for Europe has now finished showing at the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

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