Mutton, Gilded Balloon
Star rating: ***

Head Over Wheels, C Too
Star rating: *

Xenu is Loose! The Musical!, C
Star rating: **

The modern world provides plenty of fodder for satire, particularly in the areas of instant stardom, religion and personal hang-ups. Mutton, the newest show from Liberated Theatre, gives us the story of three over-the-hill former pop stars looking to give success another try.

Chix, as the band was known during its one-hit-wonder days, were famous for their thrusts and the "point and pout". Now the ladies are a bunch of forty-somethings who meet in a bar and remember the good times. Red is eager to get on the comeback bandwagon, as is Nuala, but Shelagh, with her jazz career in place, doesn't want to budge.

The performances are solid and the characters fully realised, and there are plenty of world-weary laughs as the women's egos and ambitions clash over their shared past and fractious future. There are some out-of-place moments as tempers flare and violence rears its head, but Mutton is a clever look at how the get-famous-now world has affected three women who should have known better.

Head Over Wheels, by Morpheus Productions, presents seven friends in university exam flux as they battle bad relationships, unrequited love, grooming problems, disability misconceptions and lust in the face of religion.

The short show is packed with songs and short on story building, and each character is given a problem so broad as to render everyone a lifeless stereotype.

The songs serve as the characters' consciences, allowing them to bellow out their interior turmoil. The trouble with this is that so much is said in the music that not much is left for the dialogue, as when one pink-shirted character reveals to the audience that he's gay, only to have it limply revealed to his friends later in the show. There is some half-hearted singing, and the whole show adds up to just one or two interesting moments.

Xenu is Loose! The Musical! follows the plight of Jen, a not-quite-convert to Scientology as she is charmed and seduced by a handsome member of the church during her initial tour. Meanwhile, Xenu has escaped from his native planet and has murder in mind.

The characters at the church are good at the smooth, reassuring Scientology-speak, and Xenu is great fun as the preening, speechifying, killing machine, but there are plenty of missed opportunities here for some great satire. More focus is put on the music than on skewering the iniquities of the church, and it really feels as if Collapsible Theatre Company has more in the way of musical ideas than script ideas. The songs, though expertly performed, are just too numerous and the whole show could have been much better if treated as an hour of laughs rather than 60 minutes of song.