11th July 2016
The cult following of Richard O' Brian's Rocky Horror Show is as bizarre as the show itself. The theatrical (later cinematic) yarn opened at the Royal Court in 1973 and parodies 1950s sci-fi/ horror, incorporates cross dressing and is packed with plenty of lude sexual overtones and audience participation. The whole show is propped up by a silly dialogue, a sketchy plot and a raucous rock and roll score; it lacks the sophistication and credentials of traditional musicals, but that is perhaps the key to its success and popularity throughout the decades.
It's hard to imagine the show being as popular if it were conceived today, making it very much a product of it's time. The progressive sexual content and boundary pushing characters made Rocky the perfect anathema to the stuffy authority of the early 70s. During this period musical theatre was also becoming more controversial too. The days of Rogers and Hammerstein were passing, paving the way for rock musicals such as Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar which were similarly contentious, all be it for different reasons.
The artists, outsiders and rebels found solace in Rocky Horror, a show that praised the alternative and poked fun at the up tight youth and establishment (represented by all American heroes Janet and Brad). Two years later the show would receive a hugely successful film adaptation, attracting even more fans and cementing the show into popular culture forever. Celebrating his tenth anniversary as the shows director, Christopher Luscombe's current regional run of the production contains more titillation and shocks than ever before.
Luscome's cartoonish production is Scooby Doo meets Grindhouse, as Janet (a delightfully bubblegum Diane Vickers) and the geeky Brad (Richard Meek) venture to a castle for help after getting a flat tyre, only to be sucked into an orgy of debauchery and sexual liberation. Liam Tamm as Frank-N-Furter (the“ Sweet Transvestite, from transsexual Transylvania”) is simply perfect in the role and plays it in equal parts masculine seducer and floor-filling drag queen. He also has a voice to die for, and gives one of the most compelling and energetic performances of Frank in the shows history.
Norman Pace's background in stand up makes him ideal to casually go off book and enjoy exchanges with the audiences, much encouraged, heckling, as the Narrator. Frank's faithful and sinister manservant Riff Raff is once again played by Kristian Lavercombe, an actor who's made a career playing the role having done so over 1000 times. He bears more than a passing resemblance to O' Brian (who played the part in the film) which gives the show continuity. S Club 7's Paul Cattermole put in a fine turn as Eddie and Dr Scott while Dominic Andersen ups the comedy as Frank's play thing Rocky, who staggers around the stage like a displaced Chippendale, full of childlike wonder.
Luscome has once again scored a bawdy hit with his current version. The director himself has likened the show to 'a carnival...a holiday from life' where people can feel liberated by dressing up as the characters, unapologetically shouting midway through scenes and being encouraged to get up dance and generally have a good time. It's Elizabethan theatre for the modern age, let's face it, in these troubled times we all need a little Rocky in our lives.