To misquote Shakespeare: “Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble.” Quite the spell was cast over the press centre today. Slovenia featured a ghost haunting Eva Boto, Croatia created their equivalent of the Turin Shroud, Sweden’s presentation made Loreen seem rather witch-like; Georgia Anri Jokhadze started off looking like Lucifer, whilst Turkey’s backing dancers were swirling their capes.
That was just the morning, when five further songs in semi two had their second rehearsal. If that didn’t wake up the walking dead in the press centre recovering from last night’s parties, this afternoon promised the six automatic qualifiers on stage in Baku for the first time. The Crystal Hall was a cauldron of excitement.
The ‘big six’ merit a separate article once they are done. Look out for video footage of them and all today’s rehearsals here. For now let’s focus on those morning run-throughs.
I was trying to work out the narrative of the Slovenian staging for ‘Verjamem’. Why is Eva Boto so unhappy on the morning of her wedding – could it be the ghostly figure is the groom’s first wife whose life ended in mysterious circumstances? Whilst I was mocking it, Eva was actually doing a great job selling the concept, improving in the first verse in particular.
I was certainly more sold by her than I was by Croatia’s Nina Badric teaching her class of undergraduate Experimental Dance students. You can analyse lots of different aspects of the staging, but all that sticks in the memory are the two men prancing around like ‘eejits’ as Terry Wogan would have called them. Their bedroom sheet got caught over the head of the backing singers at one point. I don’t see how anyone who has never heard of Nina Badric will choose to vote for this dull song that looks ridiculous.
I’ve sat on the fence regarding Sweden so far, but now I’m starting to get off it. My fears that the presentation is too arty-farty and alienating are being realised. Having got rid of the purple spotlights witnessed in the first rehearsal, the stage is now as dark as it was in Melodifestivalen, Loreen is wearing a dress with fringed arms, as if her hair wasn’t enough flying around in her face, whilst the snow effect was one big ‘meh’ today.
Loreen continues to mumble too much, especially in the first verse. She also took little interest in the camera. The overall effect was the opposite of emotionally engaging, which is precisely what defines recent Eurovision winners. Whilst ‘Euphoria’ will no doubt look a lot more polished when it matters, and I won’t write it off yet for that reason, the mood it’s creating just isn’t very accessible compared to what we’ve seen succeed of late.
Georgia’s ‘I’m a Joker’ is an even bigger mess than before. Anri Jokhadze starts off in a hooded red habit then proceeds to flounce around with four cheaply-dressed girls who later on affix fringed Elizabethan ruffs to their corsets. I know, the things one has to describe, right?! We still see too much of Anri’s back, but when he turns around, the smug look on his face isn’t a huge improvement.
This is awful, but with its many friends in this semi, I wouldn’t die of shock if Georgia qualifies next Thursday night. I’d die of shame instead.
You can probably tell that I wasn’t in a good mood at this point. Which makes it all the more commendable that Can Bonomo and his band of drunken sailors cheered me up so much, especially as I’ve never been a particular fan of ‘Love Me Back’.
With added capes swirling around and helping to create the mock boat at various points, this is as well staged as anything this year, really turning around my opinion of the song, much as Greece managed to do in 2011. Turkey are now sailing into the final (geddit?!).
Do let me know what you think of these rehearsals below, and don’t forget to check back later in the day for analysis of the automatic qualifiers’ first run-throughs.