Look, after 50 years of camp genius this show is bomb proof from reviews so all you can do is judge how good the latest production is.
The good news is that this is a really solid version of Richard O’Brien’s bonkers tribute to the schlocky 1950’s horror B-movies he watched as a kid in his native New Zealand, complete with some delicious pastiches of rock and roll songs from that period. Unless you have been living in a cave since the show premiered in 1973 – or have never been to a musical – then you don’t need a synopsis of what happens, and to be honest none of it makes sense anyway.
What this show does need is two things – a great narrator and a crowd that is up for it as unlike others shows audience participation is not only encouraged but expected. Well, one out of two ain’t bad as Motherlands’ Jackie Clune uses all her experience as a stand-up comic to bounce off the audience as they shout all the traditional responses. When the audience shout ‘slut’ at the then virginal Janet she archly notes political correctness hasn’t reached Yorkshire.
Maybe because it was a Monday night show, but the audience rather let the side down as the shouting out and interruptions of the narrator seemed a bit halfhearted, and was nowhere near raucous enough, which has an impact on the stage as the cast feed off that. People had dressed as the cast members but seemed a bit reluctant to play their part despite jumping out of their seats for a bouncing Time Warp, which was as always great fun.
Stephen Webb has played Frank N Furter before, and while he has the muscles, he lacked the camp swagger needed for a classic crazed Transylvanian scientist, but he sang well on the always show stopping Sweet Transvestite, and a moving I’m Going Home. Haley Flaherty and Richard Meek were well matched as innocents Janet and Brad, enthusiastically playing the very naughty bisexual bed scene with Webb much to the audience’s delight.
The indefatigable Kristian Lavercombe has donned the bald cap to play Riff Raff over 2000 times, and he is without doubt the greatest creepy butler of the modern age channelling O’Brien original take, but really making it his own now. Newcomer Darcy Finden had real star quality having great fun as Columbia, Ben Westhead is a strong singer as the ripped Rocky, and had put in the required gym hours, while Suzie McAdam was the pick of the singers as Magenta.
Thirty million theatre goes can’t be wrong, and this lively production takes its place in a fifty-year run of a show that was way ahead of its time celebrating diversity, and just being comfortable with who you are. Rocky Horror is a timeless classic that allowed a really mixed audience space to be their authentic selves and have a ball at the same time.
Given the recent spate of idiots deciding to sing along and run the theatre experience for others they might be better coming along to this show which encourages participation. Sadly, those morons wouldn’t understand why this daft show with a serious message will always be playing somewhere in the world.
Rocky Horror Show is at Bradford Alhambra until Saturday 30th September. To book 01274 432000 or www.bradford-theatres.co.uk
Reviewer: Paul Clarke
Reviewed: 25th September 2023
North West End UK Rating: