Writer: Richard O’Brien
Director: Christopher Luscombe
Reviewer: Dan English
It’s at the moment when the audience all rises to do the Time Warp that you realise that this production continues to pull long after its first run, as The Rocky Horror Show reaches Dartford as part of its UK tour.
Newly engaged, and fantastically naive, Brad and Janet stumble across a mysterious house when their car breaks down in the eerie woods. Inside, what lies for the couple is an evening of debauchery, discovery and deception. It’s raucous, it’s outrageous and the show is still just as hilarious. The soundtrack is just as catchy as it has always been, and it’s a performance which cannot help but create a feel good factor among its, often aptly dressed, paying patrons.
James Darch and Joanne Clifton are the innocent couple Brad and Janet. Their interaction during the play drives a lot of the early humour, and also offer perfect opportunities for the long-running audience participation gags to hit home. Clifton is particularly impressive as Janet, showing off her excellent dance skills, but also commanding the vocal skills needed for the demanding score.
Awaiting the couple is Doctor Frank N Furter, who has dedicated his life work to creating a male adonis. Stephen Webb, whose job it is to recreate the iconic character, is spectacularly good, with his entrance during Act One being a standout treat. His flamboyantly menacing performance is a treat, and there’s a genuine level of cruelty brought to the character which adds a scintillating dynamic. Webb creates strong bonds with all the performers he works closely with, and it’s an assured delivery. This is a production that relies significantly on the success of the role of Frank N Furter, something Webb does not fail to achieve.
Looking after Furter is loyal house servant Riff Raff (Kristian Lavercombe). The twisted, literally as well as metaphorically, Riff Raff is delivered with aplomb by Lavercombe. His slick and swift portrayal of the character is particularly strong during the iconic ‘Time Warp’ routine, and it’s another character performed with ease.
Each production has a narrator, with this piece’s being Philip Franks. Franks brings charm and grace to his delivery, even in the face of outrageous, even if anticipated, heckles. Franks is calm and drags the performance through its most bizarre and erratic moments.
It’s a performance which is supported brilliantly by a hard-working and diligent ensemble. The tireless cast are seldom off stage, and combat acrobatic choreography with breathtakingly quick costume changes to keep the piece’s swift pace up. The protagonists are what make this piece memorable, but it’s the efforts of the ensemble which make the production a success.
The set, created by Hugh Durrant, is maleable and transports us quickly to the various locations which are dotted through the performance. The swift change from lobby to laboratory is effective, and enables the creative choreography to be executed well.
The Rocky Horror Show retains its charm, its nostalgia and its outrageous qualities endemic since its inception. This is yet another hard-working and spectacular delivery of a musical theatre treat. Even if you’ve seen it before, this feels just as fresh and just as funny. You best get rehearsing those Time Warp moves.
Runs until 28 September 2019 | Image: Contributed