Rocky Horror Show review
A slick, high energy production of the cult classic with belting vocals is in town for Christmas - the perfect panto for adults.
I once won a chocolate snowman at a work Christmas party for doing the Timewarp. Don’t be too impressed – I was only one there who knew the moves.
In terms of Rocky Horror Show fandom though I’m way behind. Before this week I’d only ever seen the film so, though I knew people would vamp it with fishnets and feather boas to watch it on stage, I had no idea the level of audience involvement to come when I joined a night at the Theatre Royal, Brighton, where it’s on till Sat 5 Jan.
Creator Richard O’Brien has called it an ‘adult pantomime’ and he’s spot on. Perfectly timed set heckles – from puns to innuendos to downright filth – that have become standard over the years, are thrown back at the actors and narrator, who all take it in their stride. (Google ‘audience participation script’ if you want to try a few yourself).
The Rocky Horror Show is the story, of course, of square, newly-engaged college kids Brad and Janet who take shelter from a storm in the castle of Dr Frank N Furter – a transvestite Frankenstein who’s not only sexually liberated but rather free with a chainsaw. B Movie-inspired nonsense ensues with bed hopping, aliens and everyone ending up in corsets.
While it’s a well-worn musical, this production feels fresh. The cast give a high energy performance and there’s brilliantly sharp choreography both in the dance sequences and set piece clowning. The lighting and sound effects were also impressive (poor Stephen Webb as Frank gets blinding lights in the face at one point). An onstage band adds to the party.
Though it’s essentially a novelty musical, the vocals from all the leads really stand out. (I’ve heard a lot weaker in more ‘serious’ productions). It proves particularly important in holding the audience in the second half when the most famous numbers have passed.
A boy band member in the cast is not generally the promise of strong singing but AI’s Ben Adams (who began his career as a chorister) really smashes it. Strictly winner Joanne Clifton as Janet and and Miracle Chance as Columbia are fantastically, squeakily, expressive.
There are outstanding acrobatics too from Callum Evans as muscle-bound Rocky – Frank’s creation and would-be sexual plaything. He somersaults across the stage and contorts himself around other cast members.
Musical veteran Stephen Webb went down well with the whooping audience as Frank, heavy in high heels. I also loved the creepy Riff Raff from Kristian Lavercombe – who’s notched up over 1,400 Rocky Horror performances.
Dom Joly, of Trigger Happy TV fame (who I last saw trying to evade capture in Celebrity Hunted) makes a fun narrator, deftly dealing with the highest number of audience call backs in his pauses and making an encore appearance in fishnets.
A disappointingly flat, panto-style set in the opening Damn It, Janet scene (my personal fave song) soon turns into something a lot more fun inside Frank’s castle with trophy-covered walls that rotate to create a lab with a disturbing human-sized fridge. There are some surprise entrances and liberal use of dry ice caused a lot of amusement at one point as the stalls became covered in fog.
The public areas of the theatre have been decked out for the occasion with medical lab accessories in the bar, themed cakes from Choccywoccydoodah and even a prop bed where you can recreate some antics from the show for a saucy selfie.
It’s all great flirty, festive fun… and surely you can manage the Timewarp again?
Want to be sat at the Rocky Horror Show over Christmas? Don’t dream it, be it. The production is at the Theatre Royal, Brighton most days until Sat 5 Jan. Tickets are from £13.