Janet – Haley Flaherty
Brad – Richard Meek
Frank-N-Furter – Liam Tamne
Narrator – Steve Punt
Rocky – Dominic Andersen
Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show is back at the New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham by popular demand, after having visited the theatre not much more than 12 months ago. The touring production has been so successful that it is revisiting some of the venues it has already played!
The plot of the show is relatively simple, but at the same time almost defies description. A young engaged couple, Brad and Janet, are on their way to visit their ex-science tutor, Dr. Scott. They lose their way and soon get a flat tyre. They are forced to abandon their car and venture to a castle they passed a few miles back, to ask if they can use the phone to call for help. Simple enough. What transpires when they arrive there, however, is the part that is almost impossible to describe, and will seem completely irrational to someone who has never seen the show before. The door is answered by Riff Raff, the servant, who invites Brad and Janet in. Without giving too much of the plot away, Brad and Janet go through a bizarre and eye-opening experience after which their lives will never be the same again.
On 17th September last year, Richard O’Brien’s cult classic was broadcast to cinemas live from the Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End. This screening was the first time I had seen the live show, and prior to that I had been completely unaware of the incredibly dedicated following it has. It is tradition to dress up, either as the characters or in a burlesque-style outfit (usually consisting of fishnet stockings and a corset). What I also learned at that screening is that there is almost a set script of heckles the audience throw at the actors on stage, especially the narrator. One of my particular favourites was an audience member shouting ‘What’s your favourite Lionel Richie song?’ before Riff Raff greets Brad and Janet with a very drawn out ‘Hello’. That got one of the biggest laughs from the audience.
More than a year later I finally got to experience this thrilling event for myself. As this is the same production as the one broadcast from the West End, many of the actors are still playing the same parts. Haley Flaherty is brilliant as the naïve and inquisitive Janet, and Kristian Lavercombe is uncannily similar to Richard O’Brien’s portrayal of Riff Raff both on the stage and in the 1975 film. Sophie Linder-Lee’s performance as Columbia stands out against many of the other performances. She has no trouble stealing the show during the second act, when she turns against Frank, ranting at him, before exiting dramatically and very comically.
The original film featured Tim Curry as the ‘sweet transvestite’ Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Liam Tamne gave this role all the energy it requires, and his voice is perfect for Frank’s songs. Despite this, I don’t think anyone will ever be able to match the alluring attraction of Tim Curry.
The first act consists of many of the most famous and most popular songs of the show, and indeed of any musical. The most well-known of which is without a doubt The Time Warp. At this point the entire audience shows no hesitation at jumping to their feet and dancing along with the actors on stage. Although this is one of the most well-known dances ever, the narrator appears on stage with a diagram of the actions, to be able to instruct the audience.
The story becomes a lot darker and more complex in the second act. At this point, I think the audience becomes slightly more subdued and less excitable than they are in the first act, although the heckles certainly do not cease.
The curtain call was probably the highlight of the show for me, even though I already knew what to expect after having seen the broadcast of the live show last year. The cast assemble to take their bows, before beginning to sing The Time Warp again. The audience, who are already on their feet from giving a standing ovation, happily join in once more. The cast then sing the beginning of the song that immediately follows The Time Warp in the show, Sweet Transvestite. This is an equally popular song, and gets an amazing reaction from the audience.
The Rocky Horror Show is at the New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham until tonight, the 15th October. After that it continues on its UK tour, next visiting Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sunderland, Cardiff and finally Oxford.