Rocky Horror Show, Theatre Review, Grand Opera House, March 19, 2019
By Conor O’Neill
To quote Kurt Cobain’s All Apologies, ‘What else can I say, everyone is gay’. And a full Grand Opera House was at least dipping a toe out of the closet tonight. Well, who couldn’t when watching the macabre, sci-fi, gender-questioning, cult classic that is the Rocky Horror Show?
A show that knows it’s a show, and proudly so. Brilliant plot, crowd participation, big tunes played by a five-piece that sound like a garrison with pitch-perfect ears, a cast who didn’t put a foot wrong: not a step to the left, nor a jump to right… but I digress.
For those unfamiliar with the plot, it goes something like this: middle American conservative couple, Brad (Ben Adams) and Janet (Joanne Clifton) driving to some unnamed location from a friend’s wedding, get a puncture and head back to a castle a coupla miles back.
Then it gets weird, and weirder and weirder still. The castle is the dwelling of Frank N Furter (Stephen Webb) who has more than a penchant for the alternative lifestyle.
With butler Riff Raff (Kristian Lavercombe), his trusty servant and a team of phantoms, plus his loyal duo of Magenta (Laura Harrison) and Columbia (real name, Miracle Chance – that’s got to be either a pseudonym or she’s the daughter of hippies), that very night, the castle has a special occasion happening. The birth/creation of Rocky (Callum Evans). Voltage up and the Mary Shelley reference is realised.
This creature has no stitches, bolts hanging out of his neck nor a mind capable of murder. Simple minded, yes, but perfectly toned as he backflips the stage.
But this is not our high-heeled, stocking-sporting antihero’s first attempt at creating perfection. Eddie is the unseen elephant in the gloom. Of course, with such a complicated musical, there must be a narrator.
Enter Philip Franks. A galvanised, conscientious, objective observer; dressed in Savile Row’s finest cloths, and a repertoire of the finest one-line comebacks.
There’s an actor somewhere in the first few rows. “Describe your balls?” she shouts, quicker than a sparrow’s heartbeat our guide states in monotone: “Black, heavy, and pendulant… but I’ve got cream for that from Boots.” Keeping with modernity and with additions creator Richard O’Brien would be proud of, we have Brexit references, Tinder and Grindr, Backstop and next week’s show, the theatre adaptation of Ghost, The Musical plus enough other little asides to prove nothing is beyond updating.
For the purists, there is the satisfaction that the 2019 world tour keeps to the ethos of the 1973 original. The songs are all here. Frank is as irreverently as horny as a rumble of clergy. If he was up early enough to see the crack of dawn, we all know what he’d do to it.
Cherries are burst, by fair means or foul, hearts are torn, mutiny strikes, Dr Everett Scott throws a spanner in the works and all is not what it seems.
And the music. Jumping piano, squealing then sobbing guitar, The Who’s John Entwistle has returned Lazarus-like on bass, crashing and thumping drums, there’s even sex in the saxophone. Musical supervisor, Tony Castro along with Richard Hartley arranging, make superlatives seem simply that.
For a world tour, the set and its many changes are surprisingly understated, in showbiz terms anyway. It works. So why do what’s not necessary?
Choreography, direction, acting, costume, musicianship: each and every one top of the pops. Apparently this failed on its first Broadway run. A critic declared it ‘Just a play for homosexuals’. O’Brien causally retorted: “His words really upset my wife and my boyfriend.”
And to end this enthusiastic review with more ‘upset’, those of you without tickets will be saddened to know that this Grand Opera House run is a totally sold out. All I can recommend is to ring the GOH and pray for a cancellation or two.
Rocky Horror Show runs up to and including Saturday, March 23rd with matinees on the Friday and Saturday.
For optimistic booking info visit http://www.goh.co.uk or ring the box office on 02890 241919