At this time in May, Eurovision fever is running high, making it the perfect time for Martin Blackburn’s Eurovision comedy Nul Points! Set in a flat across successive Eurovision parties over the last decade, it charts the friendship of Josh, Kat, and Daz as they graduate drama school and make their way in the world. They gain Andy, a lost stripper, and Josh’s mum, played by Fascinating Aida‘s Adèle Anderson, into their cohort along the way.

There is certainly a lot to love here for a fan of the song contest. Song titles are dropped punningly so often that one could watch along with a bingo card. The play also benefits from a genuine love of Eurovision; unlike another recent attempt to capitalise on the song contest’s popularity (Will Ferrell’s Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga), this play brims with affection rather than disdain for the contest’s idiosyncracies, which makes it instantly endearing. I do question how much the domination of Eurovision in-jokes, particularly in the early scenes, would turn off the non-Eurofan in the audience, but I suspect Blackburn’s play attracts few non-obsessives. 

Don’t be fooled by the poster, however; Nul Points! is more than a romp through the last decade of hamster wheels and flaming pianos. Instead, the shifting relationships between the friends takes centre stage as career and personal resentments begin to take over. The tonal shift between the two acts, the first lighthearted and the second more sober matches the maturing of the characters across the decade as they cope with the realities of adulthood. This is unfortunately marred by a confused Act 2 opening, where Josh’s absence is for a long time unclear, due to the actor’s continued presence onstage and the existence of three characters named Josh. Once clarified, the second act is touching in its exploration of grief, but it never feels as though it fully gets to the bottom of the serious topics at its centre. Tonally, it struggles to find its place; a subtle performance of grief by Charlotte East’s Kat feels jarring beside the more cartoonish style of the lighter moments of the play. The plot device of truth or dare does the job of opening some nasty wounds, allowing the first act to reach its dramatic climax, but the set-up still feels clumsy. The play is also waylaid by innuendo that makes Bucks Fizz’s infamous warning about indecision look subtle. I love a good snigger, but sometimes a raised eyebrow at a double entendre carries more weight than a full explication. Rather than dig fully into the themes that ground the story, it is a shame that the play is so frequently distracted by such low-hanging fruit.

It’s not quite Douze Points for Nul Points! then, but it is moving nevertheless. Anyone who has been to a Eurovision party will recognise the dynamic between the obsessives and the naysayers, and the density of Eurojokes will keep you on your toes even whilst you are caught up in the friends’ lives. Nul Points! is not merely a Eurocomedy – it definitely has a lot to say. It’s just a shame that it gets a little lost along the way.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Nul Points! is on at Union Theatre until the 20th of May – tickets and more info here!

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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