From an audience perspective, the performance of The Rocky Horror Show I attended was a fairly sedate affair: there were no evangelical fanatics protesting outside the theatre, and patrons who had dressed for the occasion were very much in the minority. Every venue on this ‘World Tour 2022’ (as the front cover of the show’s programme puts it), I suppose, is different, and every performance is in front of a different crowd. It was reassuring, as someone who hadn’t ever seen the show before, and therefore didn’t know what the audience participation elements were, to feel that I was far from alone. Almost a half-century after its premiere at the Royal Court, the show continues to draw new audiences as well as repeat visitors.
Philip Franks as the Narrator breaches the fourth wall magnificently, making topical putdowns of senior politicians and their approach to, um, anything, as well as local references that admittedly played to the gallery. It fitted well with the narration, laced as it was with innuendo. To call one character “Asshole!” and another “Slut!” is in some ways – to some people – just as offensive now as it would have been in the Seventies. I never felt shifty or uncomfortable, but I can easily think of some people who would be. On the other hand, the relative lack of nuance and subtlety can be refreshing, and even cathartic. The other-worldly nature of the show works remarkably well, creating a distancing effect that reminds the audience that this is, as a caption at the end of the motion picture The Rocky Horror Picture Show puts it, entirely fictitious.
At some point during the evening, I gave up trying to make sense of the storyline: the show combines science fiction with parody and sarcasm, such that if something didn’t make sense, that’s probably deliberately so. Stephen Webb as Frank N Furter has a magnetic stage presence that very much suits the role of master of the house. It’s an eccentric show, with some performances that, perhaps unusually, could have benefited from being a tad hammier. Kristian Lavercombe’s Riff Raff is suitably creepy, and one can’t help but feel some sympathy for Brad (Ore Oduba) and Janet (Haley Flaherty) as they are unwittingly immersed in a situation that is – without giving too much away – bizarre and disorienting.
Some of the shouts from the audience were more discernible than the lyrics from the stage, with the balance between the cast’s voices and the sound of the six-piece band not always at its finest. It is, undoubtedly, a show of its time, though it is a tad unkind to dismiss it as being stuck in the very same time warp its characters sing about doing again (and again, and again). But I couldn’t help thinking there must be some LGBTQ+ people who don’t find it necessary to be quite so loud and lairy, and some straight people who are not nearly as highly strung as Brad and Janet.
At the end of the day, it’s a fun and tongue-in-cheek night out for the open-minded. It is quite incredible that outside of pantomime, this is one of the only shows out there that relies on the outright contributions of its audiences. Perhaps there should be a few more of them – it’s all very well having singalong performances of jukebox musicals, but that still doesn’t harness the audience’s energy in quite the same way. If the choreography seems a little basic, it’s also accessible: the encore ably demonstrated the audience’s ability to follow the required dance movements. A fun, slick and boisterous production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Ready to thrill you with fun and naughty moments, Richard O’Brien’s legendary rock ‘n’ roll musical, The Rocky Horror Show returns as part of a sell-out worldwide tour, having been seen by over 30 million theatregoers.
Starring Ore Oduba (Strictly come dancing winner), The Rocky Horror Show is the story of two squeaky clean college kids – Brad and his fiancée Janet. When by a twist of fate, their car breaks down outside a creepy mansion whilst on their way to visit their former college professor, they meet the charismatic Dr Frank’n’Furter. It is an adventure they’ll never forget, filled with fun, frolics, frocks, and frivolity.
Age restriction: 14+ – Be warned, this show has rude parts.
Rocky Horror Show
The Legendary Rock ‘n’ Roll Musical
Churchill Theatre, Bromley
MON 11 – SAT 16 APRIL 2022
Mon 16 May – Sat 21 May 2022
Mon 23 May – Sat 28 May 2022
Bristol Hippodrome Theatre
Mon 30 May – Sat 4 Jun 2022
Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent
Mon 13 Jun – Sat 18 Jun 2022
King’s Theatre, Glasgow
Mon 27 Jun – Sat 2 Jul 2022
New Wimbledon Theatre
Mon 21 Nov – Sat 26 Nov 2022