The Rocky Horror Show – New Wimbledon Theatre Review

Published by Daniel Bennifer on March 1, 2016 1:50 pm
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Keep control. Grab your fishnet stockings and don your black wig and luscious red lipstick. It’s time to do the Time Warp again!

Since its debut on stage more than forty years ago, Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show has become a smash-hit musical phenomenon, with productions spanning across six continents. The new production of the show – touring the country throughout the year – promises to be a rite of passage for all theatergoers, leaving you wishing it was a double feature.

The show is a campy tribute to the sci-fi and horror films of yesterday, and is possibly best known for its 1975 film adaptation, The Rocky Horror Picture show, which despite having a rocky start (pun intended), has since amassed an incredible cult following and remains the longest-running theatrical release in history – four decades on.

The plot follows the rather stereotypical aspect of most horror films and kicks things off on a highlight of young love and the promise with which it brings. Following the wedding of friends, Brad Majors proposes to long-time girlfriend Janet Weiss through the musical number “Dammit Janet”. To celebrate their engagement, the couple decide to set off to see their college professor – who introduced them – but it isn’t long before things take a turn for the worst.

In the midst of a storm, the couple’s car breaks down leaving them stranded. Lost and in the middle of nowhere, the young lovers stumble onto a castle. Greeted at the door by the bizarre Riff Raff, the hunchbacked handyman and one of the masters’ servants – or one of his slaves, as the audience put it – the couple enter, not knowing what lays in wait for them inside. And so begins an evening that they will remember for a very, very long time.

Upon meeting their host, the sweet transvestite and mad scientist Dr. Frank N. Furter, they are invited up to his laboratory to see what he’s been working on – a man with “brown hair and a tan”, in this production. Think Frankenstein’s monster, but not quite so monstrous. From this point, things quickly spiral ever more into chaos and decadence as the night progresses.

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It is almost immediately apparent from the moment when the show begins that you’re in for a night of sheer bliss and pure enjoyment. The atmosphere in the theatre is brimming with excitement and it isn’t long before audience participation begins. It’s almost as if the cult followers in the audience are working from their own script, in tandem with the actors in stage.

The same could be said for the songs themselves – as audience members belt out their favorite songs. It truly is a case of if you know the words, then sing along. Because, you can sure as hell guarantee everyone else will. In some instances, this might be considered an annoyance or disrespect for the talent on stage. However, in the case of Rocky Horror, this couldn’t be further from the truth. They seem to relish in it and more-so, they riff off each other and it goes back and forth. Hilarity is bound to ensue.

For those who’ve seen it countless times already, The Rocky Horror Show never stops getting better with each viewing and people put in a massive amount of effort for the show. On the night, the New Wimbledon Theatre was adorned with people in drag. It would be easy for a virgin to the show to find it a bit daunting, without previously having experienced it.

In fact, it’s almost as if the cast know that they are playing to the faithful – cemented by narrator Steve Punt’s opening remark of “I don’t want to spoil the show for the two or three of you who haven’t seen it before.” If you don’t take it on with an open mind, you might come away disappointed. Instead, it’s best to sit back and give yourself over to absolute pleasure.

Taking that into account, it is easy to see why a show with such an incredible fan following would demand a solid all-around cast. It is an absolute must that they can be on stage and not be thrown off by the participation of the audience itself. I found myself stunned by the performance of each cast member – all of whom gave the cast of the film itself a run for their money.

The role of Brad was played by Ben Freeman, who delivered his solo number with excellent prowess, hitting the notes perfectly. The same is true for that of X-Factor finalist Diana Vickers, who took on the role of the naïve Janet, playing the role with fantastic proficiency.

 

A night of sheer bliss and pure enjoyment.”

A campy homage to the sci-fi and horror films of yesteryear, The Rocky Horror Show is an evening filled with fun, frolics and frivolity. Not only is it the boldest show on stage, but it is one party that you won’t want to miss.

Though, the highlight of the cast was that of Liam Tamne (BBC’s The Voice) as Dr. Frank N. Furter. I had never before seen Tamne on stage, but he played the role with perfect precision – almost as if embodied by Tim Curry himself. Kristian Lavercombe, who previously played more than 900 performances of The Rocky Horror Show during its 40th Anniversary World Tour, returns as Riff Raff, much to the delight of the audience – especially during the now-infamous “Time Warp”.

The supporting roles of Magenta and Columbia are portrayed by Kay Murphy and Sophie Linder-Lee. Though, on the opening night, understudy Lauren Ingram played the role of Columbia – even if I was hoping to see Sophie Linder-Lee in a role other than that of Wicked’s Glinda. At the same time, however, Ingram certainly didn’t disappoint. The cast is topped off with Paul Cattermole, of S Club 7, who tackles the the role of both Eddie (don’t mention Eddie!) and Dr. Scott (Sieg! Heil!).

Outside of the main cast, we must mention the incredible live music performed throughout the show, led by Australian composer and conductor Ben Van Tienen, along with the along with the Design by Hugh Durrant, Lighting Design by Nick Richings, Sound Design by Gareth Owen, and Choreography by Nathan Wright. These awesome people, along with Director Christopher Luscome truly brought the show to life in unparalleled style. The topical jokes by Steve Punt didn’t hurt either – especially the one about Donald Trump.

It is not hard to understand why The Rocky Horror Show is so very much adored by its followers. It is an experience quite unlike any other – both on stage and off it. It is an evening of pure enjoyment, through which you can set your cares and worries aside for a brief time and pelvic-thrust your way into the night.

The legacy that Richard O’Brien has created will continue to live on – unlike Frank’s creature – and undoubtedly continue to grace theatres around the world. And rightly so - it’s filled with fun, frolics and frivolity. Grab your fishnet stockings, put on your black wig and luscious red lipstick, and get on down to see the boldest bash of them all before it’s tour is over. This is one party – and it truly is a party – that you won’t want to miss.

 

The Verdict

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story

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design

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cast

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music

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quality

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overall

9.0

9.5

9.5

9.5

9.5

10

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