MusicalReviewSouth East

Rocky Horror Show – Orchard Theatre, Dartford

Book/Lyrics/Music: Richard O’Brien
Director: Christopher Luscombe
Choreographer: Nathan M Wright
Reviewer:Dan English

Despite debuting in 1973, Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show shows no sign of being caught in a Time Warp as it makes its stop at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre.

Christopher Luscombe’s production sees innocent All-American couple Janet (Lauren Ingram) and Brad (Richard Meek) find themselves enter the debauched world of transvestite Frank N Furter (Liam Tamne), as he reveals his scientific masterpiece, the perfectly sculpted muscle man Rocky (Dominic Andersen), much to his delight. Armed with a bizarre set of scientific contraptions, with a few assistants too, Frank N Furter attempts to corrupt and seduce the engaged couple into his outrageous grasp.

Ingram and Meek’s innocent couple are well executed. The play does not allow these characters to become overly developed, partly due to the theme of superficiality that emanates from the production, yet Ingram and Meek do well to create characters that the audience still have some form of feeling for. Both display a superb comic timing and an ability to match the demands of physically gruelling choreography with equally as difficult vocal ranges. Their couple is one that is sickly sweet who have their heads turned, at different points, by Furter, but while their innocence may be in peril, their charm does not wane throughout.

Tamne’s Frank N Furter is extraordinary. Tamne is superb in his delivery of this outrageously flamboyant and unpredictable character, with it being difficult whether to like him or loathe him before the final curtain, which is a testament to how Tamne gives this performance. There is a real element of showmanship in this display, with Tamne executing the musical numbers successfully and rousing the audience at every possibility, a must for this role. There is a fragility to Furter which can go missing in some productions, but Tamne captures this well as Act Two reaches its conclusion. Quite simply, this interpretation of O’Brien’s most famous creation is fantastic.

Riff Raff, Furter’s loyal servant, is played by Kristian Lavercombe, who returns to the role and the production having previously performed during the show’s 40th anniversary UK tour and West End productions. Lavercombe encapsulates the sinister servant, but also plays it with an overt exuberance with links well to the eccentric nature of the production. Lavercombe is excellent in his interaction with Tamne, but also shines in his individual performances, particularly during his first scenes with Ingram and Meek in Act One. Lavercombe’s performance only goes from strength to strength, particularly with his interaction with Kay Murphy’s Magenta after the interval.

Norman Pace is the show’s Narrator, a role that has been filled by many a guest star across its history. Pace does have little to do in this show, so it does feel at times that his talents are wasted, but he takes to the Narrator task well and interacts successfully with the audience and the cast to help push the plot forward.

Nathan M Wright choreographs this production, with his choreography leaving little to the imagination and encouraging the provocative nature of this show. Wright’s routines are well executed and do well to fill the stage considering the small cast number. It is also impressive to see comedy delivered so well through these dance routines, with Tamne being a prime example across the production of how jokes can be told through movement as well as dialogue.

Hugh Durrant’s set design perfectly recreates Furter’s scientific lab and his creepy Frankenstein-esque mansion, with the set also being easy to manipulate for swift changes. The set is just as loud as the production itself, with lavishly decorated interiors and grotesquely oversized scientific equipment to help drive the overall extravagance of the situation on stage.

It is a spectacle whenever it is staged, but what makes this show stand out even further is the unique rapport it has created with its audience. Throughout this production, the cast actively engages with comments from the audience, leading to hugely comic moments. Of course, this aids the riotous atmosphere that this show conjures, but it also helps to preserve that connection between the show and the audience who have remained loyal to the production almost fifty years later.

What is impressive most about this show is its longevity. This is the show, after all, that was voted the best show to ever be performed at London’s Royal Court, even beating Look Back In Anger. O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show remains just as fun and just as fresh as it did when it debuted 43 years ago, with this touring version bringing a new vibrancy to this colourful production.

Runs until 11 June 2016 | Image: Contributed

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