Writer: Richard O’Brien
Director: Christopher Luscombe
Audiences continue to enjoy the time warp in this perfect antidote to the family-friendly festive fun and which firmly signposts the end of pantomime season as The Rocky Horror Show, celebrating its 50th birthday this year, hits Dartford as part of its UK Tour.
The story is almost as well-known as the iconic dance routine as newly engaged couple Brad and Janet find themselves trapped in a depraved and debauched house, where an evening of discovery and deception lies in front of them. The show is as raucous and as funny as it has ever been, and it continues to pull in a cult, and at times outrageous, following almost fifty years since its London debut in 1973.
Stephen Webb’s sensational Frank-N-Furter steals the show. Webb’s characterisation is spot on, and his performance straddles, both literally and metaphorically, a sense of good and evil as Dr Furter gets the characters around him to succumb to their desires. Webb’s portrayal is stunning, right from his domineering entrance in Act 1 to his most tender moments in the show’s final scenes. The character is one who drives home the production’s most shocking comedic moments, and Webb’s exaggerated delivery of this, and commanding comic timing, delights.
As Brad and Janet, Reece Budin and Haley Flaherty capture the innocence and naivety of the pair as they are slowly seduced by the charm and chaos of Frank-N-Furter’s home. There is an awkwardness between the couple which Budin and Flaherty emphasise throughout enabling the twists and turns of the fortunes of the couple to unfold, and both Budin and Flaherty bounce well off each other to bring this duo to life.
Kristian Lavercombe’s Riff Raff is delightfully twisted and is, from the very first moment he steps on stage, ghoulish and amusingly sinister. Lavercombe’s exaggerated gestures and facial expressions enhance the delivery of the role, and his energy kickstarts the show during the piece’s famous Time Warp number.
A hallmark of each production is the Narrator, in this piece performed by Philip Franks. He has the unenvious role of controlling the audience interaction which dominates the show, yet his wit enables him to handle this with aplomb. Franks’ comic timing is impeccable and he earns a lot of the laughs in this show yet still maintains the ability to emphasise the show’s darker and more moving movements as it reaches its conclusion.
In addition to its leads, The Rocky Horror Show boasts a superb ensemble cast who work tirelessly to bring the show’s demanding and well-known routines to life. This opening night was also impacted by a couple of minor technical issues, including being briefly paused, yet the cast pushed on and reacted well to any minor disruption.
The production is raw in its sensuality and this is reflected in the design as it moves from the sickly sweet church scene at the beginning to the lair of Dr Furter’s mansion as the play progresses. The piece’s design captures this well, and the malleable nature of the set enables for swift changes, keeping the production moving and also enabling characters to enter at random, emphasising the element of surprise when needed.
Despite it reaching its half-century, The Rocky Horror Show shows no signs of slowing down. The strength of its cult-following is clear and this is yet another strong version of the show which is sure to delight fans, old and new, and leave them in hysterics. It is truly, at times, a shocking performance which, despite its age, continues to have jokes that can still make you blush,
Runs until 14 January then continues to tour