I saw Vicky Vox last year in the Regent‘s Park Open Air Theatre’s tremendous production of Little Shop of Horrors, in which she absolutely shone. I was delighted earlier this year when I arrived at the What’s On Stage Awards to find that she was co-hosting with Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, who she rendered speechless regularly throughout the night. She is funny, acerbic and on that night endearingly vulnerable. She also out Patti Luponed Patti herself when a member of the audience decided to use her phone to record Carrie Hope Fisher giving her acceptance speech!
When I saw that Ms Vox was returning to London to star as Hades in Zeus on the Loose – billed as the love child of Rocky Horror and a Greek God – I had high hopes. Unfortunately, while she is fantastic, the rest of the show left a lot to be desired.
We are introduced to the proceedings by Apollo (Dean McCullough) who sets the scene and leads some 1980s level audience participation. The story is set on Olympus, home of the Greeks Gods. Hera, Zeus’s wife, believes that sisters Aphrodite and Ilithyia have the strength together to overthrow the Gods and so colludes with Hades to separate them and send one to the Underworld where Hades rules. Hades, realising the punishment that could be meted out by Zeus, decides to double cross Hera and tell Zeus of her plan. That really is the extent of the plot! Along the way we get some cabaret, acrobatics and a couple of tunes.
The venue (Fire Nightclub) seems an odd choice. It is a long thin room with a small stage at the front. The seating is standard chairs on a dance floor, making it difficult to see what is happening on the stage. The cast make use of the space reasonably well but as the interaction with the audience is fairly minimal it would have been better staged in somewhere more suitable for cabaret.
In the first act, Zeus and Hera have a party with entertainment, the highlight of which is an aerial hoop performance. Rather strangely the hoop is then left hanging, causing an obstruction when viewing the stage and at various points casting shadows onto the backdrop.
The evening is not helped by a photographer and videographer moving around in front of the stage constantly through the entire production. At one point the photographer is hanging so far on to the stage he may as well be part of the show.
As the lights go down for the second half the audience has noticeably thinned which is a shame as the 2nd act is a definite improvement on the first. The dancers who up until now have done some fairly naff choreographed routines come into their own. One of the women does a superb aerial silks routine, while another does some incredible acrobatics with a bow and arrow. Two of the dancers deliver a seduction routine with Zeus and Hera which certainly raises the temperature. It seems bizarre that the production company have such great performers at their disposal but use them so sparingly.
Vicky Vox as Hades is just superb. She has mesmerising stage presence and a wonderful voice. The show and the audience absolutely light up when she is in the room. Towards the end she veers off script and starts riffing with the audience which is hilarious. The show could do with a lot more of this and a lot less of everything else.
This production is nowhere near as fun or as raunchy as it thinks it is, but Vicky Vox and the acrobatic performers just about make it enjoyable.
Reviewed by Emma Heath
FOLLOW WEST END WILMA