“I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey.” “How strange?” yells out a member of the audience. “Stranger than Brexit!” comes the reply.
The experience of watching Rocky Horror Show is really a social phenomenon as much as it is about the show itself. Described by its creator Richard O’Brien as an ‘alternative pantomime,’ the audience have come to play a pivotal role, with fans ritually dressing up, shouting back lines, and singing along, all credited as major factors in its success as the biggest cult musical of all time.
Even without the elements of audience participation, Christopher Luscombe’s production creates the high level of performance that Rocky Horror Show is known for. Joanne Clifton shines as soon-to-be housewife Janet – sharing a strong chemistry with Ben Adams’ hopelessly square Brad – whilst Philip Franks excels in the role of narrator; his improvised quips a joy to watch. Stephen Webb takes on the iconic role of Dr Frank N Furter, retaining the character’s renowned flamboyancy whilst also allowing his more tender moments to come through. All the remaining cast, Laura Harrison, Kristian Lavercombe, Miracle Chance and Ross Chisari offer strong support throughout, with Callum Evan’s acrobatic stunts as Rocky being especially eye-catching.
George Carter’s live band brings the legendary rock n roll musical to life, performing popular musical numbers like Time Warp, Sweet Transvestite and Science Fiction/Double Feature in all their traditional offbeat glory. Set designer Hugh Durrant channels Hammer Horror’s gore-infused gothic interiors, a titillating combination of camp and horror. Similarly, Sue Blane’s original cheap leather costumes and Nick Richings jarring light designs are synonymous with the weird and zany world of the B-movie genre.
Act II is slightly difficult to follow, an issue not helped by a minor technical delay, which results in the adjacent sequences appearing intermittent and sporadic. This issue is quickly resolved however and the show continues without losing any of its previous power.
Some cult shows fade away while others seem to maintain their foothold and loom even larger in the culture. Like any true cult classic, Rocky Horror Show was ahead of its time. Still fabulous at 46, its varying displays of sexuality and gender fluidity make it a very current cultural phenomenon. Don’t dream it, be it!