The Rocky Horror Show – New Wimbledon Theatre, London

Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty

Writer: Richard O’Brien

Director: Christopher Luscombe

Heels, eyeshadow and sequins at the ready – the Rocky Horror Show Tour struts once more into town. It’s not been long since the Time Warp dance graced the stage and aisles of New Wimbledon Theatre – it was a stop early in 2019 on the tour – but audience keenness seems to have remained happily and joyfully intact. A cult classic that welcomes a broad church, Richard O’Brien’s tale of young lovers encountering an alien bio-engineer with a jealous streak and a penchant for corsetry is an inexhaustible gift to the world.

It’s close to being 50 years old at this stage so perhaps most people will know the story. Indeed, a lot of those who go and see it are repeat customers – dressing up like the glam characters and singing/shouting along. When Brand and Janet are stranded one night and find the creepy home of Dr. Frank-N-Furter they were just looking for a phone. What they get is a sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania, and his group of followers and phantoms. All combine to corrupt the virginal young couple, show off the muscled and tanned man the Dr. has just created in his lab, and escape the attention of the US government. It’s a gorgeous, romantic love-letter to schlocky horror films and B-movies that is also an acid blast of sexual revelry, as delightful and provocative now as it was at its debut in 1973.

You’ll know the songs, even if you didn’t know they were from this show. Running rampant through a wide range of styles, it’s these and the accompanying choreography what makes this odd story shine. Haley Flaherty and Richard Meek as high-school sweethearts Brad and Janet give us a lovely version of the fairly traditional musical tune Dammit Janet. Then we kick into high gear with the power trio of Over at the Frankenstein Place, Time Warp (and its infectious dance moves) and Sweet Transvestite which introduces us to the Dr., his associates Riff Raff and all their devious plans and thoughts. These numbers have been honed over years, and there’s no bum note – they’re just the highlights of a smashing set of performances throughout.

And they’re stunningly performed – high energy and ballsy without being brash. As Riff Raff we have Rocky Horror royalty Kristian Lavercombe doing an excellent job as the creepy butler, and find a glorious mix of masculine force, and lascivious, high-camp excess in Stephen Webb as the Dr.

It’s all delivered by the powerful visuals created by the combination of Nathan Wright’s bold choreography and furnished by Hugh Durrant’s set and Sue Blane’s costuming. Musical director Charlie Ingles drives his players forward with real verve – sometimes wildly loud but we’re not here to relax anyway.

Whether you’re a long-term fan of Rocky Horror or a newcomer curious to see what the fuss is about, this production is going to meet your high expectations. Great performances, top-notch music, a story that has stood the test of time. And where else can one yell obscenities at the stage (though they have to be the right obscenities at the right time, naturally). There’s a reason Rocky Horror Show is still going after all this time – this production shows exactly what it is.

Runs until 26 November then continues to tour

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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