Songs for Europe – Two short plays about Eurovision by John Richards & Lee Zachiriah

By Lisa Clark 

It warms the heart to see such fabulous intelligent, funny and moving Australian theatre being debuted at Melbourne Fringe. Songs for Europe – Two short plays about Eurovision, is what the title suggests, but don’t go expecting a glitzy, trashy Eurobeat style parody, ‘cause you will be disappointed. This is a more poignant look at how Eurovision has influenced the world and the people involved.

The first play Nothing by John Richards is an intimate portrait of an encounter between two people in the basement dressing room of a nightclub somewhere in Eastern Europe, while the sounds of bombing can be heard in the distance. Patrick, played with straightforward simplicity by Nicholas Colla is an English hipster freelance journalist writing an article about Eurovision. He’s hunting down certain ex Eurovision performers and is here to meet up with Sonja despite her disinterest and downright refusal in granting him an interview. Sonja is an aging Eastern European diva magnificently and intelligently played by Marta Kaczmarek. Their feisty parley is witty, clever and ultimately powerfully moving.

The second play is about revolution and Eurovision’s association with war and hope for peace in Europe. The Carnation Revolution by Lee Zachiriah is set in Lisbon in 1974, three men are waiting in a café waiting for a signal over the radio to start a revolution against a dictatorship. The signal is a song from Eurovision and it is based on a true story. A mysterious, menacing customer enters the café. Chris Broadstock as Diego is bland and unassuming on the surface, yet creates unease with word play that becomes tension you can cut with a knife. The performances here are all excellent, though you can’t help but notice Jack Beeby who has a small part in the first play and then is barely recognisable as the young keen, sweet, naive revolutionary Carlos who has the audience completely on side. Petra Elliott is also excellent as the capitalist café owner, wary of Diego and his potential for trouble but willing to sell her wares to whomever wants to consume them.

The stage is simply set with a drabness that suggests being back stage at a theatre that perfectly complements both plays’ themes of backstage / behind the scenes to Eurovision; and the reality behind a glamorous front. There are two televisions on each side of the set that play vision from Eurovision before and between the plays and they give the audience members a taste of Eurovision as well as setting up the next play.

Songs for Europe is a production of contrasts, inverse expectations, conflict and peace. Where the first play is intimate and personal the second is about the world stage and they complement each other well. The dialogue is clever, and all the performances in this production are excellent but Marta gently soars above the rest, her experience and conviction in the role evident. Her riveting nuanced, portrayal of Sonja will stay with you long after the play is over. Whether you are a fan of Eurovision or not, this is definitely worth hunting through the back streets of Brunswick for.

Songs for Europe is on at Broken Mirror til Sept 29th.

Note: Broken Mirror off Sydney Rd is actually a more comfortable performance space than many Fringe spaces. Not hot and stuffy at all.

5 Good Reasons To See Songs For Europe: Two Short Plays About Eurovision

Here’s 5 Good Reasons To See Songs For Europe: Two Short Plays About Eurovision

1. It’s written by that guy that co-created ABC’s Outland and that guy from ABC’s The Bazura Project. You like those guys. They do good things.

2. It’s got jokes, but also pathos, drama and heart. It looks behind the kitsch and glamour of Eurovision to explore themes of failure, revolution, history and identity. Deep!

3. It has an amazing cast, including Green Room Award winner Marta Kaczmarek (Shine, The Circuit, Offspring), Nick Colla (Neighbours, Blue Heelers, Wicked Science), Chris Broadstock (award-winning impro performer, Bed Of Roses, Blue Heelers), Jack Beeby (Australian Shakespeare Company’s Twelfth Night, and known for his cabaret under the nom-de-plume “6” Uncut”), Noah Moon (better known as rapper Ca$h KRZMA), Angus Brown (acclaimed stand-up comedian) and Petra Elliott (musician, actor and host of live Doctor Who podcast Splendid Chaps). It’s directed by Lucas Testro (Channel 7’s Winners & Losers, 10’s Neighbours).

4. Half of it is set during the Portuguese Revolution of 1974. You don’t see that every day.

5. It includes a brand new 1982 Eurovision song (although this arguably might be a reason against. Please consult your doctor if pain persists).

Songs for Europe is a single show made up of two short plays, the first is called “Nothing” and the second is “Carnation Revolution” They have been written by John Richards (Outland and Splendid Chaps) and Lee Zachariah (The Bazura Project) so you know they will be funny and insightful.


While they’ve appeared on several podcasts together, this is the first collaboration between John Richards and Lee Zachariah- but why Eurovision?

Lee: That was my first question to John!

John: I love Eurovision! I love that while we always go on about the glitter and the kitsch – which is great – it also has this much darker side. There are so many real-life Eurovision stories that involve war, protest, and tragedy. One of the reasons they started Eurovision was to reunite nations that were at war only a few years previously. And then they made it a competition. Madness.

Lee: What won me over to the idea was when John told me about the 1974 Portuguese revolution that was basically kicked off by a Eurovision song. The more I read about it, the more desperate I was to tell that story. It’s really extraordinary.

Both John and Lee are best known as television comedy writers. John co-created and wrote ABC1 sit-com Outland, while Lee wrote and performed in The Bazura Project for ABC2. So why write short plays? And are they comedies?

John: I wouldn’t say it’s comedy. Well, not comedy comedy. It’s a drama with a high degree of wit. There are jokes, but you’ll also come away with some insight into the human condition. Or possibly just hungry.

Lee: I don’t believe that writers should be shackled to any single medium. The idea always comes first for me; then I have to figure out if it’s a feature script, a short film, a TV show, or a silly Twitter joke. It’s usually the last one.

Songs For Europe: Two Short Plays About Eurovision is playing at 7.45pm at  Broken Mirror Productions Upstairs (Level 1), 2c Staley St Brunswick