Friday, 9 August 2013

Saucy Jack And The Space Vixens

Leicester Square Theatre, London


Book by Charlotte Mann
Lyrics by Charlotte Mann and Michael Fidler
Music by Jonathan Croose and Robin Forest
Directed by Stuart Saint

Jamie Birkett

Michael Fidler, the creator of Saucy Jack And The Space Vixens suggests in his programme notes that we are all Space Vixens at heart. Whilst Fidler may be right, the fact that it has taken nigh on 18 years for his celebration of disco to arrive in London's West End, suggests that there hasn't been too much demand to explore that particular zeitgeist. Fidler also says that when he wrote the show he (rather arrogantly) envisioned a "Cheers" set in outer space. Well it's safe to say that that dream also, has yet to be realised. This show is a fantastic froth of intergalactic crime busting, set against a glitter encrusted culture of a disco beat and gratuitous fetishism and if you’re sober, it’s rather dull. If you've had a couple of beers then the show may well be brilliant, but then of course you run the risk of missing out on appreciating the truly outstanding collection of talent that Stuart Saint has assembled. It's a tough call.

The cast is actually magnificent. There is not one weak link and a handful of the company are outstanding. Ralph Bogard is Jack, an outrageously flamboyant and murderous character, who made up, resembles a hungover Steve Strange in his pomp. But boy can this boy act. He holds the audience in the palm of his hand throughout and like many of the cast, gives the material far more talent than it deserves. Wonderful too is Lisa Gorgin, who masters three characters during the course of the show and whose two big solos Vulva's Tango (subtle huh?) and Space Trucking are fabulous. Big up too to David Malcolm whose transvestite Booby Shevalle is the most convincing drag turn to have been seen at the LST in quite a while. Leanne Jones, gracing a London show for the first time since becoming a mum, proves that her vocal talents have only grown alongside her ample maternal curves and she remains, as always, a delight. Finally the Offies nominated trouper Jamie Birkett again proves herself the most versatile of actresses. Impressive glittered heels giving Birkett a statuesque aura never seen before and allowing this gem of an actress to dominate the stage in a glorious trio of speech, presence and song. 

Technically, the producers need to have performed much better. Too many words are inaudible and whilst the lyrics may well not be worth listening to, it would be nice to be given the choice. And whose idea was it to have a character who has been written around being a sax player, being then made to mime his sax playing to a backing track? That is a shameful piece of corner cutting and starves both the production and the writing of some rare passionate praise that it might otherwise have garnered.

Saint writes bravely in the programme of how developing this production gave him a positive focus in life as he battled cancer and notwithstanding this critic's gripes, if the power of disco offered him such a force for good, then it is to be cheered and celebrated for nothing is more important than such a journey of recovery. But showbiz demands that such sentiment be put to one side and as a piece of musical theatre writing Saucy Jack And The Space Vixens disappoints. To mis-quote a certain phrase, whilst this show does indeed remain unpolished, it has unquestionably been rolled in an awful lot of glitter.

Runs until 15th September

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