while 'Voyeurz' makes you long for the steamy eroticism of Pan's People

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The Independent Culture
I gasped. I lunged forward in my seat. Reader, I was shocked. The nudity? Hardly. The nipple clamps? I think not. The dominatrix with the black leather dildo? No. The startling surprise came when the horrified heroine announced her abandonment of the forbidden desires of the club Voyeurz to stay home with a book. What is it? A black-spined Penguin Classic. She has a brain? Well, cut my legs off and call me shorty.

The plot of this ludicrous farrago makes the photo stories from Jackie look taxing. The curtain rises on a bed revealing a young girl. Let's call her Jane. Why not? It's her name, we're in a musical and it rhymes with Margot Fonteyn, vain, inane, Novocain... sorry. I drifted off.

Jane seems to have fallen asleep during the middle of a Persil-sponsored modelling assignment for the racier end of an underwear catalogue (no gussets) with the cast disporting themselves about the bed giving her the old come-hither. White symbolises innocence. Jane is from Virginia after all.

En route to the wicked city, she meets Andi, who licks her lips and sings, "I'm Andi. How ya doing?" To which she replies "Fine thanks. I'm Jane."

All the while, the company moans the immortal couplet, "Jane, Jane, sex on a train." It's that good.

Arriving at Voyeurz, she is entranced by the highly charged atmosphere of sexuality and eroticism. Well, that's what it says in the programme. Everyone intones the club's mantra: "Sex. Control. Pain. Pleasure. Lust. Distress. Shame." Are we supposed to tick all or one of the above? No matter, there's lots of smoke, red lighting, a cage and scantily clad girls dancing with plastic snakes. "What is this?" cries Jane. "Why am I here?" Quite.

A first night of rent-a-crowd groupies screamed and played along but if producer Michael White thinks he's got another Rocky Horror on his hands, he's deluded. The book, music, lyrics and direction are the responsibility of Michael Lewis and Peter Rafelson - and they're all shoddy. The entire package is like a fifth-rate reject from a Madonna concept album: Madchen out of uniform. Madonna, however, has lashings of irony and camp. This has neither. The lesbianism is Seventies two-for-the-price-of-one style (not a butch dike in sight); the music is techno meets power ballads; while the choreography makes you long for the steamy eroticism of Pan's People. Take a leaf out of Jane's book. Stay home.

n At the Whitehall Theatre, London SW1, to 12 Oct. Booking: 0171-369 1736