It’s a very exciting, momentous, and historic time for the United Kingdom. No, I’m not talking about, as Private Eye put it so succinctly, “Man in hat sits on chair”. This is far more important. After a gap of some twenty-five years, the UK is hosting Eurovision. OK, it’s not because we won but it’s still a huge event that will be watched by nearly nine million people around the world. The reason for all this hyperbole is because, with perfect timing, Nul Points! a new Eurovision comedy by Martin Blackburn has opened at the Union Theatre.
For Josh (Kane Verrall), 2012 is going to be a banner year. Not only is he about to graduate from his drama course but he has people coming around for a Eurovision party. Whilst Josh is Eurovision-obsessed, his best friend Kat (Charlotte East) is not as invested. In fact, this is her first Eurovision party. Josh could be on his own as his other guest – and the current object of his love/lust-– Daz (Marcus J. Foreman) actually thinks Eurovision is a bit too gay. Even though he is graduating with no agent and no jobs on the horizon, whilst his friends’ careers seem to be moving forward, nothing will spoil Josh’s excitement, and that excitement is increased when the doorbell rings and stripper Ryder (Sean Huddlestan) bursts in and starts to perform. Little do Josh, Kat, Daz, Ryder, and even Josh’s mum Gina (Adèle Anderson) know, but this party is the stone thrown into a pond and the disturbance it created will ripple through their lives for the next decade.
Nul Points! is an interesting comedy peppered with some absolute banging one-liners in the script Martin Blackburn really celebrates the way that family, friends, and lovers can really get under each other’s skin when they want to. There are multiple relationships in the play between Josh, Kat, Daz, and Ryder which are then to some extent exacerbated by the introduction of Gina who brings a new dynamic. In fact, Gina was my number one character, because she was everything I was expecting. If I think of Josh, then Gina is the kind of mother I picture him having, and I really liked Anderson’s performance. I also loved Josh. Yes. At first glance, he does appear to be a typical screaming twink of the type I would normally avoid like the plague, but there is so much more to him. Like the good middle-class boy he is, no matter how he is feeling inside, he puts on a smile for those around him. Josh is a product of his upbringing and I have the feeling that Gina is secretly proud of how her boy has turned out. Verrall manages to extract so much of Josh’s character and show it to the audience so that we know and, in some ways, understand him, even if his friends and lovers don’t. An excellent performance.
And he has a lot to perform. Martin Blackburn has added extra fun by putting Eurovision song names and facts in the script, and there has been a lot of research or he is a true EV-er himself. It doesn’t matter which is the case as all the song drops, historical facts add to the EV atmosphere. Unfortunately, I do wonder if Josh – who lives and breathes the Vision – would actually be as relaxed as he seems about people larking around, chatting, shouting etc while the competition was on TV.
Looking at more detail, Nul Points! has, to my mind, a stronger second act than the first, and I do think the show could have been shorter as it felt like the pace dropped a bit between 2013 and 2015. I also felt that for a play that spans ten years, the characters didn’t seem to grow at all, particularly as their lives had obviously progressed. I also, and I know it’s a thing with me, feel that the television should have been working. They could have just pointed in the general area but having a TV there on stage in David Shields’ set and not having it working really irritated me. William Spenser’s direction is good, making great use of the apartment set, and I really liked the way the scene changes were accomplished, including keeping the audience up to date on which year we were in.
Overall though, Nul Points! is fun. It’s not going to set the world on fire, but it is an entertaining and very amusing show with a lot more layers than appears at first site. I really bonded with some of the characters in the second act and actually felt quite emotional at the end. It’s not Brotherhood of Man (1976) and it’s definitely not Jemini (2003). I’m going to say it’s Nicki French (2000), and just as enjoyable.
Review by Terry Eastham
Adèle Anderson, Charlotte East, Marcus J. Foreman, Sean Huddlestan and Kane Verrall are to star in the world premiere of NUL POINTS!, a new Eurovision comedy by Martin Blackburn.
Josh loves Eurovision. He knows every insane figure and fact. Ukraine entering a guy in a hamster wheel. Ireland with Dustin the Turkey. The Russian grannies. And each May he hosts a Eurovision party – the highlight of his year. Join this hilarious rollercoaster of a journey over 10 years of Eurovision Parties from 2012 to 2022 as Josh bestows his guests with Bucks Fizz, Euro-V trivia and games of Eurovision truth or dare. Will they Rise Like a Phoenix, get Ooh Aah, Just a Little Bit…or meet their Waterloo with NUL POINTS!?
Creative Team: Director William Spencer, Designer David Shields, Producer Peter Bull, Associate producer Conor Dye.
Peter Bull presents
A new Eurovision comedy
by Martin Blackburn
Director William Spencer
Arch 22 & 23 Old Union Yard Arches
229 Union Street
London, SE1 0LR
26 April – 20 May 2023