Rula Lenska is looking over the Aegean from the Greek coast as the sun sets on another bakinghot day. Soaking up the view, she looks the very model of a European citizen – not least because this English-born daughter of Polish refugees has arrived at her holiday destination after a continental road trip. “We drove 2,000km from Poland, through Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia and Macedonia into Greece,” she says.
It’s an itinerary that sounds like a line from Eurobeat, the hilariously camp homage to all things Eurovision that first wowed the Fringe in 2007 and now returns with an allnew production and a new nation: it’s Moldova’s turn to host.
Lenska has the starring role as Katya Kokov, a Moldovan TV presenter and former KGB spy, opposite Steps star Lee Latchford-Evans as Nikolae Nikovsky (winner of Moldova’s Got Talent three years running). “She bemoans the fact that the Soviet era is over and she has been demoted to what she sees as a second-class zone,” says Lenska.
On its last outing, the show struck a perfect balance between send-up and celebration, making it as stupidly enjoyable as the real thing. The actors had as much fun as the audience, as everyone joined in the nul points frenzy. With each new band on stage, flying the flag for Estonia, Sweden and so on, the audience got to take sides and – best of all – participate in a public vote.
“It’s more than theatre – it’s an extraordinary happening!” she laughs. This production includes new songs by Craig Christie and Andrew Patterson and, for the first time, a musical entry from the Vatican. Each night, the Pope’s own singing nuns compete with a Riverdancestyle entry and a song by the Polish minister of culture. “They’re really fantastic numbers, as if it was the real Eurovision Song Contest,” says Lenska. “It happens as the contest would, except they’re in a poorer country and they don’t have the infrastructure to make it glossy and glamorous – hence the comedy.”
Lenska’s music credentials go all the way back to Rock Follies, the 1970s TV series in which she, Julie Covington and Charlotte Cornwell tried to make it as an all-female rock band. Since then, she has been in everything from Minder to Coronation Street and is a little taken aback to find herself doing music again as she and Latchford- Evans perform a duet that is “very much in the Russian tradition”.
“It’s slightly out of my comfort zone – Rock Follies was 40 years ago!” she says. “I still love singing and I’m a good choir singer, but this involves a bit of solo work with an incredible tempo – it goes like a rocket. But I love a challenge. The more one’s in this business, the more one wants something that’s really going to pull all the stops out – and this show’s going to do it.”
Words: Mark Fisher
Picture: Darren Bell
Eurobeat Pleasance Courtyard, 3–29 August, 9.45pm