Theatre Royal, Brighton – until 7 January 2023
Reviewed by Sue Bradley
As we queued to get into the theatre on a cold, blustery and wet night, the ebullient tone of the evening was set by the tall man in front of us wearing fishnet stockings and sky-high stiletto heels. And, as we took our seats inside, another man sitting in front of us took off his raincoat to reveal that he was wearing nothing but a pair of skimpy gold lame underpants…..
The Rocky Horror Show is now in its 50th year and shows no signs of slowing down. Over the years, the audience has become an integral part of the experience. Every scene has its audience catchphrases and the audience are constantly offering new heckles, perhaps hoping that theirs will be added to the ever growing collection.
This type of audience participation can make it a challenge for the onstage performers to find their rhythm, either waiting for the next expected ‘heckle’ or being interrupted by a new one. The cast kept up the pace but the first half of the show didn’t quite crackle in the way that the second half did; by this time the audience had settled down more, allowing the cast to be more in control.
Although the show is built around the Frank N Furter character (Stephen Webb), this is very much an ensemble piece and Janet (Haley Flaherty), Brad (Richard Meek), Riff Raff (Kristian Lavercombe) and Magenta (Suzie McAdam) all keep the action flowing.
Special mention, too, to Philip Franks as the Narrator who managed a fair amount of very funny ad-libbing and interaction with the audience without losing the spirit of the script, or, indeed, his place in the script.
Almost all of the cast are veterans of Rocky Horror – with one member having more than 2000 appearances to their credit – and this familiarity allows them and the show to rock along with evident pleasure. They just looked like they were having so much fun.
The set design was effective rather than spectacular but, looking back, I realise it evoked the slightly shabby B-Movie theme extremely well and didn’t call attention away from the performers.
The sound design was good – be aware that this is not a quiet show and, although I didn’t need ear plugs, there were a couple of moments which took it pretty close to the edge – it should be said that this wasn’t gratuitous use of volume – just serving the plot. And the on-stage live band (just visible to the back and above the heads of the performers) are polished enough to know how not to overpower the singers.
Nobody comes to see the Rocky Horror Show expecting to see ‘High Art’ or have their critical thinking challenged. Instead, they come to join in a theatrical experience, and this they get in spades. Flashy, high-camp, funny, tongue-in-cheek vulgar (but never crass) and hugely entertaining. Get a ticket any way you can and, as no two nights will ever be quite the same, don’t resist coming again!
This show has received so many superlatives, it is difficult to know what to say so instead I’ll paraphrase a line from the show: “Dammit, Rocky, I Love you!”