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The Rocky Horror Show – The Bristol Hippodrome

Writer: Richard O’Brien

Director: Christopher Luscombe

Reviewer: Michelle Grady

[rating:5]

On an evening out at the theatre, it is rare that the spectacle should begin in the foyer, before you’ve even taken your seat – yet this is an expected occurrence at a showing of The Rocky Horror Show, Richard O’Brien’s sci-fi romp that this year celebrates its 40th anniversary. Guests dressed as Brad, Janet, Rocky, Frank and other various glitter-covered characters fill the auditorium, and the excitement among them is palpable. They know what’s to come – and they are, to paraphrase Frank himself, brimming with anticipation. With a following such as this, it is unsurprising that the show has been running for so long. That’s not to say that first-timers won’t have fun too – on the contrary, even those who have somehow managed to miss the furore surrounding this cult classic will no doubt be a firm devotee by the dazzling finale.

After the stunning opening number, Science Fiction/Double Feature, sung beautifully by Abigail Jaye, the curtain opens to reveal straight-laced, loved-up young couple Brad Majors (Ben Forster, best-known for winning ITV’s Superstar) and Janet, played by Roxanne Pallett, whose name will be familiar to many thanks to her rôle in Emmerdale.

After getting a flat tire, the innocent pair stumbles upon Dr Frank-N-Furter’s infamous castle, and the raucous fun begins. This goes for the audience too, many of whom enthusiastically hold up torches and glow-sticks when the refrains of Over at the Frankenstein Place kick in. Indeed, audience participation is far from frowned upon here; the narrator, gamely played by Philip Franks, is heckled mercilessly by the audience – and Franks gives as good as he gets, with hilarious results. This relationship between actors and spectators means no two shows are ever the same – perhaps one of the reasons Rocky Horror is still so adored by its fans.

Kristian Lavercombe’s ghoulish, down-trodden Riff Raff is a great tribute to Richard O’Brien’s version, and when he and the rest of the rag-tag gang launch into the Time Warp the audience can barely contain their excitement. Although Rhydian’s Rocky could be described as slightly wooden, his occasional stiltedness suits the rôle – and his amazing voice certainly makes up for it (not to mention his impressive pecs).

Oliver Thornton makes his big entrance as Frank to plentiful whoops and cheers, and lives up to the audiences’ enthusiasm. Prancing, posing and gyrating across the stage, his Frank is raunchy and more than a little mad, yet he brings a depth to the rôle that ensures it never slips into pantomime-style parody. In fact, the whole cast do well to keep things fresh and original, which is no mean feat with a show as beloved to many as Rocky Horror. There are so many superlatives one could use to describe this decadent, debauched extravaganza of a show – but that it has so many fanatical supporters should tell you all you need to know. Here’s to another 40 years of fishnets, sequins and rock ‘n’ roll.

Runs until Saturday 19th January 2013.

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