Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens at the Queen's Theatre

If ever a show had the support of an audience before the curtain even fluttered, this was it. The story of how Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens got to the West End is a heartwarming, ‘little engine that could kind of tale. A production company founded by out-of-work actors who run a telesales operation by day to fund their dramatic dreams. A 30-month journey that saw two runs at the Edinburgh Fringe (where it won a Fringe First in 1995) and a long tour of regional theatres throughout Britain, America and Canada. An original, British musical. There is one small problem - the play itself. It s the little engine that couldn t - at least not on the West End stage.

Saucy Jack strives to be a cultish cross between The Rocky Horror Show (overtly sexual camp) and Return to the Forbidden Planet (space age fun). The plot, what there is of it, goes something like this. On the planet Frottage III, in Saucy Jack s seedy bar, a serial killer is on the loose, dispatching his cabaret victims with a sequined stiletto. Enter the Space Vixens, “crime-fighting federal agents from a groovier galaxy”, donning their life-enhancing Glitter boots, to save the day.

But the Space Vixens - and every other character on the stage - seem more interested in sowing seeds of lust than solving crimes (though the villain is evident from the first hip swivel). Head Vixen Jubilee (Catherine Porter) quickly rekindles a passion with David Schofield s outrageous Jack (more slimey than saucy) and the others fall right in line. Soon we ve got romantic blossoms for every possible sexual orientation - I was expecting a mule to turn up at one point. These bubble along until a certain Vixen finally abandons her libido in order to unmask the Slingback Killer. Who on earth could it be? Gasp.

Though the script provides few twists and turns, it does serve up plenty of opportunities for cruder-than-crude lines. This is not farcical innuendo, but a vulgarity that hammers you over the skull again and again. “Life s too short to have the cake without the cream” is a tamer example. Even less subtle is the overarching message (with a capital M): believe in yourself - even if you are a debauched, cross-dressing, serial killer.

All the while, the good-natured cast belt their way through singularly uninspiring numbers about disco, glitter boots, necrophilia and plastic fetishes. During the desperately forced finale, the audience is implored to jump up and join in but, sadly, not a single person felt compelled to do so. Certainly not me.

Terri Paddock, March 1998