Written by Richard O’Brien
Directed by Christopher Luscombe
A miserable, wet, wet night in the middle of the abyss. A broken-down car and two young lovers lost in the woods, with not but a castle on the road to freedom. But in search of a phone, denizens of a dangerous and troubling nature are afoot for the pair.
A pastiche to the schlock B-movies of their youth, Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Picture Show establishes the musical in the lavish eccentricities we have come to expect from the film and original stage play. Containing a tour date that could rival Manilow, Cher and the Old Testament, O’Brien’s production decorates the usual rock n’ roll hits with peppers of glitter and another questionable staining.
Integral in these splatters of glitter and owner of this castle, the magnificently manipulative and masterful Frank N Furter, an extra-terrestrial from the planet of Transexual, of the galaxy Transylvania, the good doctor who draws cultural iconography stardom at the hands of Tim Curry is this evening handed to the mantle of Stephen Webb. A twisted, warped character, Webb achieves the brilliance shared by other successful Frank N Furter’s in the appeal of the role, the joy and maniacs – and one hell of a Sweet Transvestite to boot, bringing the crowds to their feet.
For those uninitiated with the goings-on of this double feature – be forewarned, theatre etiquette is a defiant beast, but the bets are off for Rocky Horror. People will shout, dance, they will sing, slur and they make it known how absolutely marvellous the fans of the show are and how unapologetically thrilled they are to be back in live theatre. And the ultimate test of metal for a production lies not with their Dr Frank N Furter or Janet, but with the Narrator – our guide into the realms of decadent madness.
In an azure blazer, Philip Frank effortlessly evokes an exquisiteness and enviable smooth tone of a professional understanding of the script – but my word, the quips and off the cuff remarks would make even the dab-hand comedian’s blush. With a local flavour, and precise to even the day of performance, the topical remarks cause ripples with audiences and cast alike.
Pioneered by O’Brien’s performance Riff Raff is an integral part of the story, both in terms of pacing and narrative mechanics – and of course, with the ever-impressive Magenta, delivers the production’s infamously intoxicating tune Time Warp. Tried & tested, both Kristian Lavercombe and Suzie McAdam channel the renowned performances into something fresh – even after Lavercombe’s eternal enchantment with the show following 1800 performances. Opening such an illustrious affair, McAdam’s Double Feature Picture Show is the instant sell the audience requires, capturing the tone and the proceeding vocals & score with ease.
Rocking the seats of the King’s Theatre is no small task – though a smaller venue than Gareth Owen’s sound design aims towards, it reverberates the King’s, blasting away any cobwebs which lurk in our audience’s ears. Crisp, it funnels thunder into the veins of Nick Riching’s lighting – neon and bouncing, though refraining from distracting – the effort onstage is in parts staggering and exceptionally slick, aiding in the arrivals and machinations of various characters.
And when supported by the likes of Joe Allen and Ben Westhead as Eddie and Rocky, a continuing reliance to enable a break from the principal stars – while maintaining energy throughout. And usual clean-cut Janet, Haley Flaherty find an immaculate balance of flaunting with simplistically clear charm and engagement. Together with Ore Oduba as Brad, the pair’s vocals fit sumptuously for performances of Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me and Dammit Janet.
Time is fleeting – Great madness is toll taking, so in the interest of your sanity – see the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Issues? Undoubtedly. But are these errors within the production itself? Far from it, Rocky Horror exists in the Betwixt & Between of glorified decadent trash and mainstream musical theatre – more an experience than performance, one drenched in lust, sex and appeal, Rocky Horror defiantly maintains its sensationalist self, unapologetic, crass and capable of satisfying even the most frigid of tempers. A perfect, and meticulously enjoyable experience – glorious and serving the ravenous appetites year-round.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show runs at The King’s Theatre until February 26th. Tickets for which can be obtained here.