Whether Eurovision is art or not is something we could debate all day long, but that didn’t stop us taking a proper look at it in situ for the first time ever. And it turns out that visiting Eurovision is actually surprisingly apt research for The Brick Box – honestly!
This year the competition was hosted in Lisbon, Portugal, somewhere we’re already familiar with. So we went along to see what it’s really like when this massive event hits town. We got chance to explore the city, as well as spending an evening inside the official arena to see some of the acts perform.
As a live event, the main thing we noticed is that Eurovision is an incredibly impressive team effort. There are live rehearsals with a full audience for each of the semi-finals and the final, with every camera switch, dance move and set changeover done to precision timing just as it would be when it goes out live.
We were lucky enough to get tickets to one of the semi-final rehearsal shows, and we found the events team and the technical set-up of the arena even more fascinating than the performances themselves.
For the first time in a long time, LED backdrops weren’t being used by any of the acts, so the staging had to be a little bit more imaginative than previous years. With no screens to rely on, we saw acts using lights, props, projections and augmented reality to enhance their performances.
Among our favourite effects were Estonia’s huge dress with projection mapped video all over it, Moldova’s fun use of boxes and doors, Sweden’s colourful tubular lighting rig, and Denmark’s dramatic ocean-inspired lighting and wind effects with a fake blizzard. With every country wanting to stand out visually, it was a real showcase of what can be done with both very simple and very complex staging.
Outside the arena, in the centre of town, there was a huge public square that had been entirely turned over to screening Eurovision and had been rebranded as Eurovision Village. It looked exactly like a music festival, and did have live performances and DJs between screened events, but the stage’s main use was as a screen so that audiences outdoors in the centre of Lisbon could watch the action as it was broadcast live from the arena.
Despite a lot of queuing to get into Eurovision Village, and then for the bar, and also for the toilets (only the men’s, the women’s had no queue at all), people were generally in very good spirits. There was a real sense of fun rather than competitiveness, most of the people we met weren’t rooting for their own country but for the song or performance they liked the most.
It’s a shame the UK didn’t win, simply because we’d love to have been involved with any element of the competition being hosted in this country, but there’s plenty of time yet!