“If all of you haven’t left with STIs tonight, we haven’t done our job right!” cackles Apollo (Dean McCullough) our host, his glittery lips twinkling under the pink lights.
We have been promised an epic erotic tale from Greek mythology told through a blend of burlesque, circus, music and special effects. The two seem a natural and thrilling pairing. We are warned that this show is strictly 18+ and not for the faint hearted. What we receive however is the type of show that could be found on the main stage of any gay bar. I truly wanted to like this show a lot more than I did.
Apollo does a valiant job of coaxing the audience out of our shells with his jokes and audience participation. The humour is less tantalising and more bawdy with predictable, eye-rolling jabs at lesbians, the suggestion that friends were secretly sleeping together etc. It is amusing, but certainly not the raunchy evening we are expecting.
From here we enter the story. The plot roughly focuses on Hera (Penni Tovey) wanting to punish the insatiable Zeus (Michael Afemare) for one infidelity too many but also separate sisters Aphrodite and Ilithyia (Fern Hopkins and Suzie Smith) because they have the combined power to takeover Mount Olympus. They never express any plans to do so but Hera still enters into league with Hades (Vicky Vox) to separate the twins. At one point there’s a choreographed battle scene between Perseus, Jason, the Minotaur, Athena and Medusa (Phyl Cashman, Sean O’Flanagan, Hopkins, Smith and McCullough)… and I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of it is. It seems as though the story is awkwardly fashioned around a programme of acts and feels very forced.
Acting, particularly in Act 1 is a little clumsy. Scantily clad dancers and main characters struggle to establish chemistry with each other despite their best efforts, sparring and caressing each other. Any spark quickly fizzles.
Choreography falls out of sync, Zeus’ microphone does not work, and the aerial hoop cannot be re-tethered and hangs in view until the interval. These are issues that are easily corrected but detract from what should have been slick, sexy performances. A burlesque performance is the closest to risqué that Act 1 has to offer but sadly fails to deliver the allure and pageantry.
Act 2 definitely finds its feet a little more and the audience seem more relaxed too – perhaps because we’re drunker. There is an enticing strip tease to the Arctic Monkeys with performers dancing on audience members too. The most engaging performance by far is the aerial silks in which Medusa swings overhead to pulsing music and strobe lights. It offers a hypnotic glimpse into what this cabaret could be. At the show’s conclusion, Artemis fires a bow and arrow with her feet and is a rare moment of genuine tension eliciting gasps of wonder and cheers.
Vox effortless dominates the stage as Hades in full drag. She is confident, witty and treats us to powerful vocals. In her glittery Doc Martens and shimmering costume she is the only character who evokes the majesty of a God.
Zeus on the Loose is a campy show with great potential and heart. The cast have real enthusiasm for their acts but they are capable of more than the script allows. The 9-strong cast are talented gymnasts and dancers, but the show is dominated by musical numbers that do not highlight the full scope of their talents. With some work to tighten the pace, choreography, and create a consistent atmosphere of piercing sexuality, this show could offer an incredible immersive experience.
Zeus on the Loose is playing Fire London until 19 October. For more information and tickets, visit the Pandora’s Door website.