European Citizen Popsong is created, written and performed by Marieke Dermul, a theatre maker and a multidisciplinary performer who, in spite of her young age, has wide experience on international stages. The show, which can be seen at Summerhall during the Fringe, is co-produced by Big in Belgium – a platform for the most significant theatre companies from the Flemish part of the country, and by Theatre Royal Plymouth – their friend and supporter at the Fringe since 2015.
The spectacle is a story of Marieke’s journey through European cities in quest of European identity. Music is a source of inspiration and a stimulus for her venture. She strives to create the titular European Citizen Popsong – an expression of European identity and unity at the Old Continent, in spite of Brexit, nationalism and separatist tendencies, which she aims to sing at Eurovision 2019.
European Citizen Popsong is more than a show; it is a live documentary, a social movement, an interactive talk – in a word, a perfect example of ART-IVISM, activism through art, Marieke’s main source of inspiration. She presents videos from her trips to Athens, Kiev, Berlin or Budapest, commenting on them and expanding each story. She talks to the audience, she is curious to get to know their opinions. She sings different versions of her popsong, inspired by multiplicity of her European journeys. She cannot be seen as an actress because throughout the show, she remains her very own self. However, her energy, enthusiasm, tenacity and audacity to admit ignorance, inspire and spark the interest.
Unfortunately, the spectacle lacks the factor of theatricality. Almost complete emptiness on stage, decorated only with very few, poor props, makes it reminiscent more of a TED talk than a show. Probably Marieke aimed to create a counterweight for kitsch of the Eurovision, however, from the perspective of the audience, it feels like a lack of budget and appropriate production. In other words, the message and music – “European folk music,” composed of Greek banjo, Hungarian accordion, Ukrainian flute, etc., deserve better than a small stage, cardboard stars and paper tassels.
On the other hand, European Citizen Popsong, and its shortcomings in the production, counterbalance gloss and splendour of the Fringe. It is different and original – and for this reason alone, it is worth seeing. In any case, Marieke mentions that the show keeps evolving all the time. Fingers crossed for that.