The pressure’s off Britain’s Got Talent now. It’s the underdog, the loser, the showboating old fool next to The Voice’s thrusting, shiny-faced youngster. Particularly in the first part of tonight's instalment, when everyone was still watching the other side, BGT messed about royally.
After a borderline sarcastic intro in which vox-popped members of the public, some of whom had the look of folk who vote for flag-waving fringe parties, spoke of their British pride, we dived into the country’s campest novelty act.
The Showbears were five burly men in silver sequinned sailor suits. They sang It’s Raining Men but, having decided that this song simply wasn’t camp enough for their purposes, changed the lyrics to add a nautical theme. Simon Cowell said, “Everything was rubbish but it was sort of good.” The “sort of” in that sentence was buckling under strain.
The Showbears scored a BGT first when David Walliams joined them on stage for another run, from the top. In theory this should have been funny, but even Walliams in a borrowed silver hat couldn’t compensate for the fact that we were watching the Showbears a second time, something they were not designed for.
Hungarian synchronised basketball cheats Face Team, an earnest quintet with a hoop, a trampette, five balls, a crashmat and a dream, were the night’s biggest jaw-drop. They somersaulted, flipped and twisted on their way to choreographed slam dunks. At the end there was some sort of human pyramid with balls.
Trouble was, they did about everything five guys with one hoop and a miniature trampoline could do. Simon Cowell rightly castigated them for some bits in the middle where one of them rolled a ball all over himself to fill in time. Between now and the final they probably need to ship over another five acrobatic rule-breakers and introduce a second hoop, dangerous cross-overs and possibly a cannon.
Hope Murphy was from Upminster and was not ashamed to be an Essex girl. She was 16 but already had the flinty, aged look the county specialises in, with solid blonde hair and Barry M cladding. You could imagine her quite comfortably running a large pub/carvery. But her singing voice! Perfect clarity and hints of a freakish range achieved without effort.
She sang This Woman’s Work “by Maxwell” (it’s by Kate Bush!), a canny leftfield song choice arrived at after Simon, looking down at his producer’s notes to see the words “TELL HER TO CHANGE HER SONG”, told her to change her song. Shameless, but who cares any more?
Then the auditions moved for the first time to Edinburgh. This majestic, exquisitely cultured city suffered the indignity of the longest ever “everyone here is a loon” montage, although the nutty deluge did give us Stuart Crout, who deserved more air time. He was playing a kazookulele, an instrument he’d invented and manufactured himself that was a cross between a ukulele, a kazoo and a piano.
Essentially it was a ukulele with a kazoo glued onto one of the tuning doodahs and a toy piano stuck on the top. Stuart’s only mistake was the name of his creation, which lazily didn’t incorporate any part of “piano”. Kazookuliano? Pianuleloo? Ukazoono? There must be something. Do leave a comment with your suggestion.
Throughout the crazy people being gonged off we’d been cutting back to 14-year-old Paige Turley (above), waiting patiently in the wings. It couldn’t have been a more obvious set-up for someone good and, sure enough, Paige’s version of Skinny Love “by Birdy” (it’s by Bon Iver!) was a peach, although I don’t know if it was amazing. Back her each-way.
United We Stand were a Diversity-style urban dance troupe, the problem being that it just isn’t feasible for anyone to turn up off the street and be as good as Diversity. United were impressive but a bit ragged, and the bit where they all stood very close together and did Walk like an Egyptian hand jives was lifted from Ashley Banjo and co.
I think they’ll crumble in the live shows but you couldn’t possibly dislike them, especially in light of their pledge to spend any post-BGT earnings on a community centre. Nobody else is going to buy one for you these days, chaps. Good luck.
Closing the show were Strictly Wheels aka Gary and his friend Paula. She was in a wheelchair having got on the wrong end of MRSA; he danced with her, not around her, and at one point he was off the ground and she spun him round. They were totally in control. Only BGT would give them house room, but this was no novelty act.