The Rocky Horror Show

Richard O'Brien
Theatre Royal, Newcastle, and touring
(2006)

When cheering greets the dimming of the house lights, you know that you're not in for a normal night's at the theatre. But of course you already realise that, because a goodly proportion of the audience is in costume - basques, fishnet stockings and high-heeled shoes. And that's just the men.

Yes, of course: it's The Rocky Horror Show, not so much a piece of music theatre as a celebration, even a ritual. Most of the audience know the lines and often pre-empt the performers, and a fair number were on their feet and ready to dance before the first bar of the Time Warp has finished. Many more had followed suit by the end of the second bar.

I have to admit to being a virgin, at least in The Rocky Horror Show sense. I've see the show on screens both large and small but this was the first time I've seen it on stage. I'd been warned, though, so the deluge (sorry: exaggeration - sprinkling) of water came as no surprise.

What also didn't come as a surprise, given that the producers include Howard Panter for ATG and David Ian for Live Nation and the director is Christopher L:uscombe, were the high production values. Janet Bird's set, Nick Richings' lighting and Sue Blane's costumes create a wonderfully comic gothic atmosphere, much aided by Jenny Arnold's witty choreography. But of course any production of The Rocky Horror Show stands or falls by the performances. The bulk of the audience knows the show so well that any shortcomings in that department would be a disaster. Disappointment would be palpable.

But it wasn't! As Janet and Brad, the two fifties innocents who receive their practical sexual education at the hands of the inhabitants of Transexual Transylvania, Suzanne Shaw and Matthew Cole capture the innocence and the comic awakening beautifully, while Iain Davey, following in Richard O'Brien's footsteps as Riff-Raff, nicely balances the sinister and the comic, that tongue-in-the-cheek homage to every horror movie from Nosferatu to Hammer Films.

Tremendous support comes from the rest of the cast, but it has to be said that David Badella (Warm Up Man and Satan in Jerry Springer the Opera in Edinburgh and London) dominates the show as Frank N Furter. He has enormous stage presence and his every sideways glance, raised eyebrow or quirk of the lips draws the eye. It is, indeed, a show-stopping performance.

The Rocky Horror Show is a real fun night out for both the fan and the virgin. It's at the Theatre Royal until 3rd June and then tours to Bromley, Manchester, Hull and Liverpool before a three week run at the Playhouse in London from 3rd July, before resuming touring to Glasgow, Aberdeen, Reading, Canterbury, Sunderland, Stoke-on-Trent, Bristol, Leicester, Milton Keynes, Edinburgh, Wolverhampton, Belfast, Bradford and Richmond, where the tour ends on 2nd December.

Sheila Connor reviewed the production in Woking and Louise Hill saw the Playhouse production.

Peter Lathan