Hades figures prominently in this show based in Vauxhall’s Fire Club – but getting to the venue is a trip to hell in itself. I gathered with a group of would-be audience members, waiting for 10 minutes outside the shuttered entrance to the club, before ringing the PR and being told to go 100 yards down a side street and through the entrance to the Vauxhall Comedy Club, where the theatre is actually based. A sign on the shutters would have helped.
You’re welcomed to the show – 40 minutes later than the stated 7pm start time – by Dean McCollough as a camp Apollo, replete in a golden breastplate and copious facial glitter. His job is to warm up the audience, which he does through a series of interactions that wouldn’t be out of place at Butlins. (You might wish to avoid sitting in the front row.) He ends his introduction with a song whose bizarre lyrics – “I wanna do some living, as I’ve done enough dying” – sound as if they’re being made up on the spot.
The show proper is a burlesque combination of song, cabaret and circus, with gender-fluid erotic dance routines. It begins with a lengthy ballet performance by Aphrodite and Ilythia, two of Zeus’s daughters, before loosely telling the story of the lascivious Zeus and his justifiably jealous wife Hera. The celebrated drag queen Vicky Vox plays Hades, god of the underworld, whose machinations drive what passes for a plot.
The proceedings ramble along with truly inane dialogue. “Zeus, you are married,” Hera bemoans, “you are meant to love me.” Artemis later challenges her with the words “Are you really going to ruin another woman’s life just because your husband can’t keep his dick in his pants?” At one point, we’re told that Athena was “born from Zeus’s head. I know, can you believe it? Who writes this shit?” Who indeed.
Much of the action takes place in front of, and on the floor of, the three-foot-high stage – which renders it all but invisible for those in the rear of the audience to see. To compensate, some key scenes are set halfway down the walkway that runs up the side of the audience, making it invisible to those in the front rows.
The nine-strong cast struggle gamely with a largely nonsensical storyline, but each get to do their party piece. Hera sings a warbling version of “I Am What I Am”; Ilythia does an impressive hoop routine; Medusa is a dab hand a dangling from a pair of silk curtains. And Artemis, it turns out, has the truly impressive ability to hold a bow with one foot while drawing and firing an arrow through the centre of a target with the other – all while balancing on her hands.
Quite what all this circus performance has to do with Mount Olympus is uncertain, but that’s not the point: this is an evening of theatrical extravagance, of what one might even call ‘gay abandon’. The scattershot plot, daft dialogue and seemingly random collection of songs don’t help to tie it into a cohesive whole; the sudden ending, simply announced by Hades as “that’s the end of the show”, comes as a surprise. But it’s undemanding fun, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Written by: Emma Rollason and Penni Tovey
Directed by: Emma Rollason
Musical Direction by: Elizabeth Lahav
Choreographophy by: Allie Ho Chee and Phyl Cashman
Produced by: Pandora’s Door
Booking until: 2 November 2019
Booking Link: https://pandorasdoor.com