Rocky Horror Show

February 22, 2022 | By More

It’s ★★★★★   Damn it!

King’s Theatre: Mon 21 – Sat 27 Feb 2022
Review by Thom Dibdin

Loud, brash and very, very slick, Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show rock’n’rolls into the Kings with pinch of glitter, a fist-full of glitz and a whole bucket of on-the-nose comedy.

Rocky Horror is on a world tour which seems to have going on since well before the end of the last millennium – but it remains as fun and sexy and rude and capable of satisfying all the senses as it ever was, thanks to strong casting and space to drop just enough topical comedy into the mix to keep the satire relevant.

Ode Oduba and Haley Flaherty with the ensemble. Pic: Rocky Horror

The story of this late-night double-feature science fiction picture show is as rickety and camp as the B-movies on which O’Brien based his musical.

Clean cut couple Brad and Janet are on their way to see their scientist friend Dr Scott when their car suffers a blow-out during a storm and they ask at the nearest house – a big castle – to use the phone. It’s the home of manipulative Frank N Furter, an alien from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy Transylvania, and his servants – Riff Raff and Magenta.

To smooth over this vehicle for rampant exhibitionism, big throbbing rock’n’roll numbers, community dancing and generally anti-establishment mayhem, O’Brien brings in a narrator. It’s a cheep move but, given the right narrator, it makes the show.

cult status

Having built itself cult status, the show’s signature, in both the stage musical and film versions, is the callbacks from the audience to various lines in the show. Such populist democracy can be problematic but, given a strong narrator, it can also make the night go with a real bang.

Frank’s Lab… Stephen Webb with the ensemble. Pic Rocky Horror

Philip Franks is the perfect narrator. He has that necessary smooth, old-school charm about him. But he also knows the script – and potential callbacks – inside out. It seems that what ever heckle is thrown at him, he has the answer.

He doesn’t stick to riposts set down in Rocky Horror law, either, but provides off-the-cuff quips and discursions which, like great pantomime comedy, are both local and topical. Monday night’s performance contained several side-splitters which would not have been funny last month – and at least one which only became funny that day.

Topical satire aside, in Rocky Horror you pretty much know what you are going to get. The only question is whether the actors live up to the material.

clean-living geekyness

On the current tour Ore Oduba takes star billing as Brad. Oduba fits the role perfectly. He creates just enough clean-living geekyness for the character, gives a passionate performance of his big number, Once in a While, and slips easily into the ensemble when needed.

The Cast of Rocky Horror. Pic: The Other Richard

However, it is Haley Flaherty who gets the star role of Janet, who finds – and flaunts – her suppressed sexuality in a way that Brad never quite gets to. Flaherty oozes clean-cut charm, but also possesses a gorgeous – and when necessary – powerful singing voice which can sell a big number like Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me with ease.

For the Transylvanians, as Riff Raff, Kristian Lavercombe reprises a role he has apparently played over 1,800 times. You can see why they keep bringing him back as he is perfect for it, glowering at his “master”, constantly on the edge of rebellion and never seeming stale.

Suzie McAdam is equally as strong as his sister, Magenta. McAdam also gets the wonderful opener, Double Feature Picture Show, which she sells with real poise. Lauren Ingram as Frank’s spurned lover, Columbia, is precise and gives an object in lesson in how to milk a scene without going too far.

a big, powerful voice

The actor playing Frank N Furter needs a big, powerful voice to get those big, powerful numbers thrumming – and an equally sized stage personality. Stephen Webb does not disappoint, with enough charisma to make sense of the warped character – and give credence to his various debauchings.

Ben Westhead with Lauren Ingram (left) and ensemble. Pic: The Other Richard

With strong support from pumped-up Ben Westhead as Rocky and Joe Allen as Eddie (a role forever in the shadow of the late lamented Meat Loaf) and precise performances from the Phantoms, this is as tight a Rocky Horror as I have ever seen.

There are some nicely added nips and tucks to Nick Richings’ lighting design and Gareth Owen’s sound design, clearly built to accommodate larger venues, is loud enough to shake the seats in the King’s.

Glorious stuff, all round, and a continuing treat for existing fans and Rocky Horror Virgins alike. Any show which has its audience on its feet within 15 minutes of the curtain-up has to be on to a good thing.

Running time: Two hours (including one interval)
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ. Phone booking: 0131 529 6000.
Mon 21 – Sat 26 Feb 2022
Mon – Thurs: 7.30pm; Fri/Sat: 6pm, 9pm.
Tickets and details:  Book here.

Suzie McAdam, Philip Franks and Stephen Webb. Pics: The Other Richard

ENDS

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