Eur gonna love this

PUBLISHED: 16:50 02 July 2008 | UPDATED: 17:13 16 August 2010

WHEN switching on the Eurovision Song Contest this year, comedian and TV stalwart Les Dennis was filled with more than just the usual sense of dread.

WHEN switching on the Eurovision Song Contest this year, comedian and TV stalwart Les Dennis was filled with more than just the usual sense of dread.

As this year's batch of has-beens and never-weres are dredged from the nether regions of darkest Europe for the annual exercise in tasteless kitsch, he is worried that he may have gone too far when creating Sergei - the gurning, lame-jacketed Eastern European host he plays in spoof stage show Eurobeat. It turns out his worries were unfounded.

"At one point I thought 'am I going too far with Sergei,'" he confesses, "and I watched some of the Eurovision show this year and thought that I'm not going far enough. They are so naff they make you cringe."

Sergei and co-host Boyka, played by Mel and Sue's Mel Giedroyc, preside over a scaled-down version of the marathon cheese-fest featuring 10 acts from the farthest regions of Europe, all competing for the top musical honour in the Northern hemisphere.

"It's just a great laugh of a night. It lampoons Eurovision really well and the audience cheer and scream and everybody who sees it just absolutely adores it," the comedian says.

The show proved to be a big hit at last year's Edinburgh Festival and has been building up a reputation as a must-see since embarking on a nationwide tour shortly after.

Like most of us, Dennis admits to having something of a love/hate relationship with Eurovision.

"I'm one of those people who get infuriated sitting there watching it," he admits. "I always think this year we'll do much better but it has just become really ridiculous now. I think even Terry has got frustrated, hasn't he?

"I'm a fan of Eurovision in that frustrated way, but by the time we have got nil points after six votes I lose interest and turn over and watch something else."

Some might argue that the real contest does such a good job of sending itself up that there's little that a spoof can add, but the comedian says writers Craig Christie and Andrew Patterson and director Glynn Nicholas have done a superb job.

"It is difficult to spoof, but they have definitely got it right," he says. "We have got 16 different singer/dancers who double up as all the acts and are fantastic. As well as the songs being catchy and enjoyable, they are very funny as well. It's almost a satire on it, but it's not too heavy."

Among the acts featured on the show are the mental Bjorkesque Gert Grollmersdetter of Iceland, the statuesque four-piece AVLA from Sweden and the dubiously-named Ronan Corr from Ireland.

"I think they are all great but Ireland is very, very funny and I won't give away why," he continues. "The KG Boys from Russia are very good. The UK entry Rayne and Sheiner are very good, they have got elements of Scooch and also Gemini - the group who didn't do too well a few years ago. They are all funny and really well lampooned."

Audience members are each allocated countries to cheer for when they enter the theatre and asked to vote for their favourite acts, barring their own country's, by texting on mobile phones - a process which seems a lot fairer than the politically motivated voting of the Eurovision system.

"People often ask us afterwards if it is fixed, but it isn't. The audience definitely vote. They count the votes in the interval and then the next day everybody that voted gets a message from Eurobeat saying thank you for voting. It's all done properly."

Dennis has just become a father for the second time following the birth of his second child, Eleanor Grace Dennis, two months ago, but careful choices of venues mean that he is never too far away from his newborn daughter and fiancée Claire Nicholson.

"At the moment I'm in Birmingham and I tend to be commuting so I can spend time with the baby. She's gorgeous," he adds. "It's fantastic. I'm very lucky. I did another show in Edinburgh last year with Glynn Nicholas, so when he asked me if I wanted to play Sergei I said: 'yes but I have to pick my dates and be careful with them'. I can commute to Bromley and Milton Keynes from Birmingham and my partner's dad lives in Newcastle, so it's fine there too. Although I'm touring I'm always near home or near somewhere where's there's family, so we are not going to be apart."

l Eurobeat is playing at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley every evening until Saturday (July 5). Call the box office on 0870 060 6620 for tickets and information.

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