The Black Hole Menagerie

BATS Theatre, Wellington

25/02/2010 - 28/02/2010

NZ Fringe Festival 2010

Production Details

“2010: A Sexual Odyssey”

Scarlett Lashes awakes to find herself incarcerated in a cocoon of space time travel 27,000 light years away from Earth. Confused and disconcerted she discovers her only companion is a T2500 android as they careen towards a super-massive black hole on a mission of no return.

Scarlett soon becomes bored with T2500, and when the vodka runs out she begins recounting her sexual odyssey, ditching earthly love and embracing the space fervour. Yet as Scarlett’s odyssey progresses T2500 android becomes jittery and anxious, concealing the real reason why they are on the mission.

“Can a T2500 android find love?”

It’s one hell of an orgy as Scarlett and T2500 sing and dance across the cosmos. Will Scarlett and T2500 be crushed as they are pulled towards the centre of the black hole or will they be thrust into a new dimension and a new life?

The Black Hole Menagerie is brought to you by The Fannywaterman Collective, an assortment of music entertainers emerging from the subversive dark alley of Auckland’s soiled fringe. The collective encountered the one and only Scarlett Lashes early one morning as she lay sprawled across the pavement. An eruption of musical theatre began, with the diva Miss Scarlett leading the way.

“The Dancing was funny, especially the rocket ship but still very co-ordinated” (Anna)

“Crazy with a touch of psychosis. What one needs a dose of in this day and age” (Chris)

25th-28th Feb 9.30pm
Bookings: or ph (04) 8024176

Cast and Crew
Director: Anne Jones(Auckland)
Writer/Composer/Performer: Jess Haugh (Auckland) as Scarlett Lashes
Musicians: James Cox (Auckland); Bede Maclaurin (Auckland)
Lighting: Lydia Stott (Auckland)

Menagerie lost in a black hole

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 01st Mar 2010

If Sometimes I Don’t Like Yellow is somewhat incomprehensible, then the late show at BATS – The Black Hole Menagerie – is even more so. 

Subtitled A Science Fiction Musical – 2010: A Sexual Odyssey,it presumably models itself on cult-type musicals like The Rocky Horror Show but misses the mark badly.

Travelling through outer space towards a black hole is Scarlett Lashes (Jess Haugh) with her sidekick T2500 Android (Virginia Frankovich). Why they are on this journey and its purpose is never made clear as Scarlett spends most of her time singing and dancing about a love affair with Newspaper Boy – if squawking off key and flaying arms and legs can be called singing and dancing. 

While Frankovich makes some attempt at a theatrical performance with her appallingly android like dialogue, Haugh’s laid back, low key style and uninspiring voice becomes almost insulting to a paying audience, making this show one of the low points of this year’s Fringe Festival.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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Tame, unfunny, self-indulgent

Review by Hannah Smith 26th Feb 2010

In space nobody can hear you scream.  And there is nobody to come to your rescue either. And thus you are trapped in one full hour of The Black Hole Menagerie, which is, without doubt, the worst science fiction sex musical that I have ever been subjected to.

The piece is styled as a B-grade sci-fi film, after the fashion of Return to the Forbidden Planet – you know, the kind of thing that gets a cult status and people watch it just because it is so cheap and bad.  But there is bad-trashy-cult-sensation, and then there is this. 

Scarlett Lashes (Jess Haugh who is also writer, composer and presumably driving force behind this travesty) awakes aboard a space ship travelling toward the black hole at the centre of Sagittarius A.  She is in the company of a T2500 Android and the pair is on a mission to ‘reach the singularity/ and let go of reality’.  Or something?

It’s pretty thin plot-wise. Most of the story-telling seems to revolve around Scarlett recounting her sexual adventures with ‘Newspaper Boy’, a character from the back-story who never appears on the stage.  

Now plot isn’t everything, especially in an electro-glam musical, and I could let the shakiness of the story go if the performances were strong.  They are not.  Jess Haugh has the majority of the stage time and her line delivery is appalling, her voice is weak and her uninspired dance moves seem to be made up on the spot.  At no point is there any evidence of blocking.

Her side kick Virginia Frankovich, as the android nicknamed ‘Tinker’, also struggles through her script, though she at least has the excuse that she is hampered by lines of dialogue that are incredibly badly written (think android bad grammar clichés in the style of: ‘I human feelings can compute not. Programming not designed for such understanding to reach’). 

The high point of the play is when ‘Tinker’ picks up the mic to have a song and the audience clap with relief that is not going to just be Scarlett prancing around for another interminable number. Not that I’m saying the song was good, but it was better.  The robot is cute and charismatic.  She should have more songs.

Musician Bede MacLaurin makes a single appearance as the supreme spiritual adviser Cosmic Ray and well, he is an enigmatic man of mystery.  At this point I still had hopes for the show. I thought, oh this is going to turn into a send up a la The Mighty Boosh, it is actually a really dry pisstake and they are laughing at us.  But no.  Oh no.  They take themselves far too seriously for that. 

Okay, but this can’t all be a huge negative rant.  The costumes were quite good.  Tinker’s boots were enviable, Cosmic Ray’s hat was actually splendidly majestically funny and while the choices were weird they were all in keeping with each other and whole the B grade sci-fi flick aesthetic.  As was the set: a series of sparkly and trashy ‘hibernation chambers’, a random be-sequinned oven at the back, and two plastic footstools that still had their price stickers on them.  The lighting design embraced the use of coloured gels without holding back.

And that is the other thing, really.  For a show that is supposedly about sex it contains no embracing and no sex whatsoever.  Scarlett prances about the stage talking about the sex she has had with various other characters THAT WE NEVER SEE and REFUSES to have any sexual relations with the only other character actually on the stage.  No boundaries are pushed.  No avenues are explored.  It is not racy.  It is tame. It isn’t even fun or funny. 

In a nutshell, this was one of the most self-indulgent pieces of theatre I have ever seen.  Not recommended.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


Robert Hartley February 27th, 2010

I agree whole-heartedly with the vast majority of this review. Having apparently just been sucked through some space-time warp myself, (was it really only an hour?!) I can say that the Hannah has hit the nail on the head right down to the hope of there being a misunderstanding of the humour used (maybe the joke is that it's so bad and we have to sit here watching)

The one thing I would disagree with though is the positive reflection of the costume. Sure Cosmic Ray's hat was pretty cool but I would prefer my androids to look more android-like than spoilt little girl-ish and Scarlett's early wardrobe malfunction was another disappointment. Don't see this play if you can avoid it.

Charlotte Bradley February 27th, 2010

I was gagging for a pash, at least.

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