first night

Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens

Jenny Walser has an evening unlike any other with TDTC's production of 'Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens'


I won’t lie, I went along to Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens with next to no idea what I was in for, other than outrageous costumes and a plethora of disco tunes. I have to say, although slow to get going and although admittedly I left rather baffled, TDTC have put together a highly enjoyable production, showcasing some amazing talent both on stage and behind the scenes.

Set in “Saucy Jack’s” Cabaret Club and revolving around the club’s performers who are preyed on by a mysterious serial killer, the show describes itself as a “raunchy and outrageous feel-good musical” and I would say on the whole I’d have to agree.

The first thing I have to mention are the technical aspects of the show. Director Dan Gosselin has really outdone himself with the lighting design. I can’t remember the last time I saw such complex lighting used in the Assembly Rooms and I am glad no expense was spared. Particularly effective was the Space Vixens’ (Elissa Churchill, Izzy Osborne, Lara Dolden) entrance from which point on the show went from strength to strength.

Unfortunately, my major gripe would have to be sound. I appreciate that the acoustics in the Assembly Rooms are problematic but at times the music was simply too loud for the actors and their tight harmonies to be heard which lead to a harsh and messy sound. This was also not helped by the fact that many of the actors’ microphones would constantly cut in and out, would take several lines of a song to turn on or would be too loud when they did. This must’ve been very distracting for the performers and several moments were ruined because of this. One particularly amusing sound issue was when the saxophone music played before Sammy Sax (Jake Goldman) had even lifted the instrument to his lips. I have no doubt however that these issues will be ironed out.

Praise must also go to Johanna Rutherford for her choreography which was not only stylised but also comedic; no mean feat. Costumes were inventive and I feel did far more to create the atmosphere than the set. For me the set could’ve integrated the audience more which would have made interaction easier and less forced. Again, the space is not the most versatile so this is only really a grumble and was not helped by the small audience numbers of a first night. Personally I didn’t love the walkway design as I felt distanced from the action and it was actually a hindrance in terms of sight-lines; we often lost a lot of what was going on along the length of the walkway as we were seeing it end-on.

Audience interaction is always going to be difficult when you’ve got a small audience and no doubt Saturday night’s crowd will be jumping at the chance to get involved. However, I felt that at some points it made people feel uncomfortable and also confused as to whether this was meant to be an interactive show or a standard ‘audience in the auditorium, actors on the stage’ kind of show. I now know it is meant to be the former but I think if you’re going to do it you really need to go full out, have a clear reason for it and it needs to feel wholly appropriate.

Now to the cast. From the moment Charlie Keable (Saucy Jack) stepped on stage he was both menacing and utterly watchable and showed again what a diverse actor he is. Just in his eyes he exuded a kind of sadness and hatred and for me he brought the most emotional depth to any of the characters (admittedly they are not the most complex bunch). As usual Elissa Churchill’s vocal ability simply blew me away, especially during ‘Living in Hell’. Of equal merit is Sarah Slimani in her multiple roles and she should be commended on how varied she made each of these.

The second half of this musical is really where things started to hot-up and without a doubt my favourite moment was the song ‘Fetish Number From Nowehere’ between Mitch (Russell Lamb) and Dr. Von Wackoff (Joe McWilliam). It was completely insane and I sort of loved it…I won’t say any more but it’s definitely one to look out for - just don’t sit anywhere easily accessible if you don’t like getting up close and personal with PVC…

My only little groan for the cast as a whole would be annunciation. Quite a few lines were lost and as a lot of the comedy lies in the words this was a shame. Overall I think the cast and crew did a good job and even if you think this show might not be your cup of tea, go in with an open mind and I think you’ll be surprised. It’s certainly different to anything I’ve ever experienced in Durham and I’d urge everyone to get tickets whilst you still can.

12 February 2015

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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