Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens is the plastic-and-glitter-wearing spiritual sister of shows such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Durham University Light Opera Group (DULOG) are the team behind this year's version of the classic Fringe musical: although they have brought buckets of enthusiasm to the loopy space opera, sadly overall the show feels unfocused, under-rehearsed and underwhelming.
Sweet and well meaning, energetic and fun, but poorly performed.
We are set in Saucy Jack's dead-end dive bar, in a far corner of the sleazy side of the galaxy. The bar's patrons, performers and local criminal undesirables dream of getting out of town: however, bar owner Jack is not fond of letting a good act go, and coincidentally, anybody who tries to go gets killed by the 'slingback killer'. Into this den of vice arrive The Space Vixens, intergalactic deities who fight for truth and justice though the power of disco. They are hot and in heels, and hot on the heels of the murderer. As the two groups collide, old flames are reignited, new couples fall in lust and love, and we discover how far people will go for ‘love, independence and good head’.
The two standout performances were Sammy and Jubilee. Sammy, the talented saxophone player in the bar, was dressed like he had walked out of the credits to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He spent the whole show practically vibrating with energy as he threw himself into the movement, whilst the over-the-top playing of the saxophone really struck a chord. Jubilee is the leader of the trio of Space Vixens and has a voice like a dream. Her unshakeable sense of character is the trickiest role in the show. During the flashback to her past, we see a younger version of Jubilee - and young, pliant and silent Jubilee and older, self-assured, confident Jubilee are very different people but still the same person.
Sadly the rest of the performance lacks finesse. The dialogue floats about, going between not big enough to carry the ludicrous character or storyline, and sometimes reams of just shouting. The choreography was fairly simplistic and over-reliant on standing in lines and unison, which was made worse by the fact the cast really struggled to do anything in unison. Jack had a habit of drifting vaguely around the stage in a very distracting manner, whilst Booby - the drag queen character - had clearly seen enough RuPaul to get a few coquettish hand gestures down, but the rest of their physicality was wooden. In a show where it is crucial for Booby to walk in glitter boots, the fact that they could not do so without looking unbalanced and uncomfortable was a real shame.
As a performance that often takes place in a real bar, the performers have to work twice as hard to create that atmosphere in a theatre, and it never quite made it to those levels. There also seemed to be a slight lack of awareness of the cult nature of the musical: for example, audience members often come dressed for the show, and are expected to join in with the dance numbers. It is always slightly embarrassing when members of the audience are better dressed than the cast. Whilst they did pull people up onstage to dance at the end of the show, it felt much more like a school disco than a intergalactic disco in a bar on the edge of space.
This production is sweet and well meaning, energetic and fun, but poorly performed. If you don't mind that, you will still have a enjoyable time.