I can’t remember the first time I saw Rocky Horror Picture Show on screen, but I know I loved it straight away. And it’s taken me to the grand old age of 41 to finally get to see it on stage. Audience participation script memorised, Mr Fletche and I head off to the Alexandra Theatre. Trying to ignore the strange looks as we walk across town. (They really should hand out “I’m off to Rocky Horror” badges with each ticket.)
**We were invited to attend by the Alexandra Theatre, receiving complimentary tickets and a glass of red wine or two in exchange for an honest review. Thoughts – as always – are my own. And occasionally those of Mr Fletche**
Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show is an event as much as it is a show. It doesn’t matter who the cast are, which stage it graces or that the storyline doesn’t require much deep analysis. For the true diehard fans it’s a chance to don suspenders, a French maid’s outfit, green scrubs, motorbike leathers, gold pants or full alien garb from the Planet Transsexual. And it’s the opportunity to join in the script, heckle The Narrator and call poor Janet a slut at every opportunity. For the Rocky Horror virgins – well, you’re in for a treat indeed. Your fellow audience members are as much a part of the performance as the on-stage cast.
We are absorbed in the frenzied mayhem from the moment the iconic usherette appears. Singing along is certainly not frowned upon. Neither is dancing the Timewarp at every opportunity. We meet Brad and Janet. They are young, in love and completely innocent. Fast forward two hours and that innocence has disappeared, along with their clothes and their virginity.
The plot is largely unimportant but for the sake of those who are interested in that kind of thing, here goes:
Broken down car. Spooky castle. One of the masters “affairs”. Let’s do the Timewarp (again). Dr Frank n Furter. Makes himself a man (“I didn’t make him for YOU”). Chainsaw. Bed-swapping. Dr Scott! Sonic transducer. Ballroom. Feather boas and basques. Aliens. Castle turns into a space ship.
That just about covers it.
This current tour, directed by Christopher Luscombe, comprises quite a small cast, but what they lack in numbers they make up in energy, enthusiasm and a genuine passion for the show. Callum Evans is a standout performance that pleases the audience – choosing an accomplished gymnast to play the titular Rocky is a stroke of genius as he flips and flexes his way across the stage. 90’s boy band star Ben Adams and ex-Strictly Come Dancing champ Joanne Clifton play squeaky-clean Brad and Janet to perfection, and 00’s boy band star Duncan James is a camp and charismatic Frank n Furter. The audience are in rapture every time he steps on the stage. Kristin Lavercombe is hilarious and creepy in equal parts as everyone’s favourite handyman. Local gal Alison Hammond takes on her role as The Narrator with gusto, batting back the pantomime heckling and genuinely having the time of her life.
It’s a simple set design by Hugh Durrant with fluid transitions which don’t distract from the action, and the lighting by Nick Richings is almost akin to a pop concert at times. Hidden at the top of the stage, we almost don’t notice the live band, doing a fab job under the direction of Musical Director George Carter
Rocky Horror is a cult classic and rightly deserves the fanfare it gets whenever it hits a new city – even the famous Brummie Bull got in on the action!
If you want to be thrilled, chilled and fulfilled, The Rocky Horror Show is in Birmingham at the Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 25th May 2019 and then continues touring the UK until November 2019. Tickets can be purchased here.
All production photos are used with the permission of the promoters.