Review: The Rocky Horror Show @ The Playhouse Theatre *****

N.B. The following review is of The Rocky Horror Show during its limited run from 11th to 26th September 2015 at the Playhouse Theatre, London. Some of the cast members mentioned are not reprising their roles for the current 2015-16 touring production, notably Richard O’Brien and David Bedella. For information on the different, current cast, see the wesbite.

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The Rocky Horror Show is back and it’s currently touring around the UK. I was lucky enough to see it in London with Richard O’Brien, thanks to my amazing friend Claire who got us tickets after I told her I wanted to see it, even though she’d never seen it before! And it was so good that on the train back I checked the nearest regional theatre it would be playing at next. The answer is Wimbledon next year.

I find it very hard to judge this show critically if I’m honest. First of all, it’s one of my favourite musicals. And secondly, it’s less a show and more an experience. Those familiar with the format will know how immersive Rocky Horror is: audience members dressed as characters, singing and dancing along, and lines shouted back in a call and response. There are some lines which have standard responses: ‘I’m Brad Major…’ Audience: ASSHOLE! ‘And this is my fiance, Janet Weiss…’ Audience: SLUT. With it touring though, there will be certain variations; there was one shout back which it seemed the actors hadn’t heard before, and actually made a seasoned Frank’n’furter corpse. I won’t spoil it, but it had to do with KitKats…So with this stance in mind, when you feel part of the show, it is somewhat hard to maintain a critical distance, though I’ll try.

When we arrived, the theatre was pretty packed, and we could see it all from our seats. I say seats, we were actually standing at the back of the Dress Circle. So, as the song goes, we were literally:

At the late night double feature picture show

In the back row…

The only other time I’ve stood for shows was at The Globe, which on the one hand was an ‘experience’ and on the other hand when watching Titus Andronicus, I was cold, wet and just plain scared! But standing for Rocky Horror was so much fun: you could properly dance around for The Time Warp and bob around for other numbers, plus the view was pretty decent for £20. I’d recommend standing tickets, but maybe only for musicals…3 hour Hamlet not so much.

The staging in this production is pretty minimal: the castle, car and pieces used during the ‘Sword of Damacles’ number are pretty much the only notable set pieces. The set itself changes using sliding/spinning pieces to show a change in interior setting, between Frank’s lab and the reception areas. Oh and theres a giant plush curtain.

Richard O'Brien as the Narrator, and David Bedella as Frank'N'Furter

Reprising the role of Frank’n’furter, David Bedella is confident, sexy, entrancing and heartbreaking, all in equal measure. So hypnotic is he that he has Brad, Janet and the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. Although perhaps it’s the other way round for him, Brad and Janet, with regards to ‘eating out’! Ben Forster and Haley Flaherty make for the adorable American sweethearts Brad and Janet, and Kristian Lavercombe and Jayde Westabys’ interstellar, incestuous RiffRaff and Magenta are a delight to watch. Richard Meek’s Eddie/Dr Scott, Sophie Linder-Lee’s Columbia and Dominic Andersen’s Rocky round out a stellar cast, but, of course, the final word must go to Richard O’Brien. Playing the Narrator for the London stint only, O’Brien revels in the role, giving a commanding, natural and hilarious performance. It’s a delight to be ‘lost in time and lost in space’ with him and this cast.

Verdict: a totally exhilarating, electrifying experience! The transducer will seduce and so will this show!

The Rocky Horror Show is touring the UK from 2015 through to 2016. To find out where it’s playing near you and to purchase tickets, visit the official website.

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