Writer: Richard O’Brien
Music: Richard Hartley / Simon Beck
Director: Christopher Luscombe
Reviewer: Poppy Helm
With Rocky Horror, the show always begins in the foyer. Early arrival is recommended to provide enough time to admire the outfits of fellow audience members (and to give yours sufficient airing if you’ve dared to bare). Inhibitions – as well as clothes – are always shed at this sexy sci-fi musical where blending into the crowd requires suspenders rather than slacks. Unique as it may be, it’s a formula that works: the current tour of Rocky Horror Show proudly marks its 40th anniversary with a year-long tour laden with extras such as ‘cast question time’ and backstage tours.
We meet Brad Majors and Janat Weiss as they get engaged and embark on a road trip to share the good news with their old college professor. Breaking down en-route, they seek shelter at Frank-N-Furter’s castle – their host, a charismatic transvestite with a voracious sexual appetite and a particular weakness for blonde hunks. Quickly becoming embroiled in his bizarre lifestyle, it’s clear that Brad and Janet will leave – if they can leave – very different people to that which they arrived.
Rocky virgins observe; this is not a show where you are expected to sit quietly. Dancing, whooping and quoting the audience participation script (google it) are all strongly encouraged. Interestingly, the minor rôles in this performance are some of the most engaging; Kristian Lavercombe is a suitably creepy Riff Raff with a intensely powerful voice, while Abigail Jaye’s Usherette is sweet and flirty, enough so to be particularly memorable despite her limited air time. Philip Franks is also superb in the rôle of narrator, batting away plenty of off-script heckles with complete ease. However, the star of the show is always going to be Frank-N-Furter (Oliver Thornton) – he is playful, sexy and sinister, not to mention has legs to die for.
The only area where the show disappoints is in its slightly uninspiring set; some of it (such as the vertical bed) has been done too many times before to add much to the overall experience. Still, there are a few clever touches – such as the ‘film strip’ balcony – which pay homage to the early horror movies which served as the plays inspiration.
Minor criticisms aside, this production proves that 40 years of Rocky Horror Show success hasn’t gone to its head. Instead it is, as it always was, a fun, filthy, orgy of flesh which never takes itself too seriously. In fact – it’s probably the most fun you can have with your clothes on.