If you love Eurovision, and we proudly admit that The Recs does love Eurovision, brand-new comedy Nul Points! looks like the perfect warm up to the world’s most famous (or infamous) song contest. But the sad irony is that Nul Points! lives up to its name.
The show’s protagonist is Josh, and it’s very clear from the first beat that Josh loves Eurovision. He knows every insane figure and fact. And each May, he hosts a Eurovision party – the highlight of his year. We follow a journey over 10 years of Eurovision Parties from 2012 to 2022 as Josh bestows hospitality and his obsession with his greatest love, on his friends, partner and mother.
Martin Blackburn’s script does have some funny one liners – “Daz, less gays have seen Wicked than your arse” being the funniest – but overall is devoid of substance. It’s written without the cohesion needed to give its characters the basic foundations to draw empathy from the audience, especially when the story takes an unexpected sharp turn in Act Two. It’s unlikely that the subjects of drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide would have been on your expectations bingo card for this show, but they all get a moment in the spotlight. It seems an inexplicable inclusion in a show billed as a “hilarious rollercoaster of a journey over 5 Eurovision Parties”. Worse, Blackburn also includes the odd Xenophobic trope – Josh’s mother is landed with the line “Gosh, this place is so dusty. Oh we must pay for a ‘Polish’ to come and do the polish”. When there are countless ways you could portray a woman in her fifties, why resort to this? Especially in a show about Eurovision. Suffice to say, no-one laughed.
The casting of this production also leaves much to be desired. The performances are to acting what Jemini were to melody. Most of the dialogue is reduced to lines being thrown about the stage (mostly at volume 7-10) with little direction or expertise. While the show has Eurovision references and gags peppered throughout the script from beginning to end, most land flat because they aren’t given the time or delivery for the audience to understand or react to.
At times, it’s difficult to tell if what is being said on stage was scripted or improvisation. Having the experienced Adèle Anderson drying on her first line and the rest of the cast staring blankly, not knowing what to do, set this uncertain, underprepared tone. While you might not be expecting performances akin to the National Theatre, these would be deemed lacking by even Edinburgh Fringe standards. There was a refreshing glimpse of truth from Charlotte East’s portrayal of best friend and playwright, Kat. East is the single performer in the production whose acting convinces. She finds some truth in the majority of her broad storyline, but as with the rest of the team, she seems to be wholly let down by William Spencer’s frantic direction and Blackburn’s superficial scripting.
London’s fringe theatre has a frustrating trend of marketing lazily-conceived, poorly-scripted, underwhelming productions at an uncritical LGBTQ+ community (what we call “Any Gay Will Do” plays) and sadly Nul Points! can be added to the list. No one is expecting Chekhov or Wilde but it’s only fair to audiences, to produce something considered which is worth the ticket fee and we aren’t convinced this show achieves this. When there are exemplary shows such as Animal or F**king Men setting the bar so high, producers in 2023 must do better.
Who might enjoy Nul Points?Anything with a nod to the Eurovision gods such as Loreen (Euphoria 2012) will please ESC enthusiasts. If you want some frivolous theatre with a load of camp ‘jokes’, and are happy to wash that down with several glasses of plonk, you’ll may have a woozy good time – but Nul Points! is certainly not the celebratory Eurovision-adjacent play you might be expecting. We left the Union Theatre flatter than a Josh Dubovie vocal.
We’ve made our mind up – ★★ (2-stars)