I lowered my expectations dramatically during the opening scene of Xenu is Loose when the smoke effect obliterated the audience's view of the action for at least a couple of minutes. It was quite farcical to watch the actors try and make sense of their performance through thick fog, but in retrospect it may have worked out better if this smoke screen had lasted the entire performance; if only to shield us from the mess going on up on stage.
Xenu is Loose attempts to satirise the Scientologists' greatest fear that an evil alien overlord will return to Earth, but the use of the word satire seems completely inappropriate as it implies that humour is deliberate, and in this show the only laughs are due to the sheer awfulness of it all.
All the classic mistakes of amateur dramatics are here. Awkward pauses, anticipation of each other's lines and standing in a row as though queuing up to deliver words. Much of the dialogue was garbled or poorly projected into the back of the stage, so if it was a comedy, I missed the punchline. Looking around the theatre at the horror on the faces of my fellow audience members, I was not alone.
I have my suspicions that the creators of Xenu are trying to spin this out as a cult rock opera in the traditions of Saucy Jack or Rocky Horror - but at one point, when the doctor broke into a song involving CCTV surveillance, I could have sworn I heard the opening bars of 'I'm Reviewing The Situation' from Oliver. Very rock 'n' roll.
I had high hopes for Xenu, given the rich comedy vein that is Scientology and the fact that Collapsible Theatre have in the past done well at the Fringe, but this production wasted the opportunity.