BWW Review: THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, New Wimbledon Theatre
Theatre audiences are certainly less easy to shock these days than they were back in 1973 when Richard O'Brien's outrageous musical The Rocky Horror Show first debuted at the Royal Court.
These days, gender is a much more fluid concept and cross-dressing is commonplace rather than quirky. Shows such as Everyone's Talking About Jamie and Kinky Boots have The Rocky Horror Show to thank for elevating cross dressing to the mainstream.
Despite the fact that the show is no longer radical, there's still something deliciously teasing about a show that celebrates an alternative sexual reality and the joy of grown men wearing fishnets.
Naïve lovebirds Brad and Janet break down on the way to visiting an old college professor. Searching for help, they come across the crazy world of Dr Frank-N-Furter, a cross-dressing mad scientist. In an absurdist plot, the pair spend a mad night with a quirky and distinctly kinky group of characters.
The whole cast throw themselves into the kitsch and schlocky production. Joanne Clifton and Ben Adams are both pitch-perfect as the sickly sweet and clueless couple Janet and Brad, who gradually lose their inhibitions. Adams uses his honeyed boyband vocals to great effect and Clifton revels in her good-girl-turned-bad character.
Stephen Webb shows huge sass, confidence and mania as Frank-N-Furter, strutting around in fishnets as though he has been doing it since birth. He has a huge voice, which suits the character completely, although his accent tends to drift around. His rendition of "Sweet Transvestite" is particularly captivating. Callum Evans' Rocky is great as the physically perfect specimen, but he also shows great comic timing and some nifty acrobatics.
Kristian Lavercombe has been playing creepy butler Riff Raff for over 1,400 performances, an iconic role as it belonged to O'Brien himself. Lavercombe is wonderfully weird and sinister and pairs very well with Laura Harrison as an energetic Magenta.
This is a show that will inevitably fail without audience engagement. Directed by Christopher Luscombe, this touring production is very aware of the audience's expectations and need for interaction with the story. Some of the funniest moments comes from Dom Joly, who is whip-smart and deadpan in his ripostes as the heckled Narrator.
The live band, led by Musical Director George Carter, is placed above the stage. This emphasises the importance of the music in the show, and the band is loud and energetic. Costume Designer Sue Blane, who had a budget of only £400 when she worked with the original cast, does not disappoint with some outrageously revealing outfits. Every basque and corset fits perfectly.
There must be something innate in theatre audiences that makes them rise to their feet as one when the "Time Warp" begins; even the refuseniks cannot help but to be infected by the extravagant silliness.
More importantly, the show continues the attitude that everyone and anyone is accepted and celebrated. The cheeky campness of the show remains irresistible and this touring production is a fabulously fun and anarchic night out.
Photo Credit: David Freeman