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Rocky Horror Show – New Theatre, Oxford

Writer: Richard O’Brien

Director: Christopher Luscombe

Reviewer: Mary Tapper

[Rating:4]

The Rocky Horror Show New Theatre Oxford Manuel HarlanRocky Horror Show is more than just a show, it is an experience. The evening starts as you arrive in town and walk to the venue, glimpsing people in fishnets, strange costumes and lots of eyeliner mingling with the mundane crowds of evening drinkers and commuters home. It continues as the theatre starts to buzz, with the more adventurous dressers being photographed and receiving admiring catcalls as they strut to their seats, revelling in the attention. And then it creeps into the show as regulars have props and lines to use to “interrupt” the narrator throughout the show, in a carefully choreographed and long practised interaction, adding to the fun.

And fun it certainly is. The story is unremittingly cheesy, a homage to old Sci-fi B-movies with terrible special effects and plot holes galore. It affectionately pokes fun at the genre while telling the story of Brad and Janet, a gleaming, wholesome couple who are forced to ask for help, after a car breakdown, at the home of Frank-N-Furter. As soon as they enter the castle it is clear that things will be more than a little wild, and Brad and Janet are treated to a roller coaster of an evening, as events become more and more bizarre.

The show is now on its 40th anniversary tour and director Christopher Luscombe has stayed loyal to the concept. The stage has a huge reel of celluloid film curved above the set, reminding us of those ancient Sci-fi films, and it is nice to see the small band playing live, perched on a balcony above. The set is functional, rather than spectacular, but transforms quickly and efficiently to provide the suitable backdrops, without being particularly memorable.

The cast have been chosen with great care. All the main characters can sing well, with Ben Foster as Brad being the stand out performance. Oliver Thornton as Frank-N-Furter provides a dramatic, sexy performance and Rachel Grundy as Janet is convincing and charming. The show does suffer a little from sound quality issues as some of the numbers are very loud and it is hard to always hear the words of the songs, but as most of the audience are already familiar with the numbers this does not unduly impact on enjoyment.

Costumes as a trifle disappointing to start with, as Frank-N-Furter’s phantoms are clad in black dinner suits with barely a fishnet to be seen, but main characters are all as expected and Frank himself is suitably spectacular!

So does the show deliver? For the main part, yes, Slow numbers are particularly good as these actors can all deliver a song with great precision. The night bowls along with great gusto. If I had to criticise I would say that there does not seem to be quite such a spectacular transformation for either Brad or Janet. They perform the moves and sing the songs but I have seen other performances where the couple’s “journey” is more convincing. That aside this show is fun, professional and does exactly what it says on the tin!

Runs until 31st August

Picture: Manuel Harlan

 

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