Is it already “clowning for adults”, or still a cult story with some unusual audience participation? The border is thin and not fully set, but the show really gets the audience on their feet, dancing and singing (more than once), and that’s so rare! “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” serves the essence of escapism for the open-minded: and it still is one of the most insane, sexiest musicals out there (and it’s 50 years old already!).
It’s hard to write about this production in general, simply because, just like the improvised musicals, no show is the same. In this case, whether you will have a fun evening or a weird one is dependable on your fellow audience members. On a cold Monday evening, I was lucky to get a seat in the “hardcore fans” sector of the theatre and ended up standing up and doing the “Time Warp” right at the beginning of the first act.
Were I sat somewhere else or attended on a night with less loud, involved fans, I may have had a much more confusing and disappointing experience. Because the whole point of seeing “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in a theatre or cinema is not for the plot. It’s for the random traditions of callouts, comments, dancing and absolutely fabulous cosplay.
So let me just start by giving 5 stars to the audience at the New Wimbledon Theatre – they were loud, proud and fully dazzling in their lab coats, sequin shorts and usherette dresses. An experience like no other, especially since most of the typical theatre participation rules don’t apply at this show. Expressing emotions loudly, swearing at the actors and standing up and dancing in your seat are welcome and even encouraged. It’s a celebration of queer, quintessentially free lifestyle and freedom of expression, and it is such a full-on fiesta!
This particular production of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” is currently touring the UK, and I have to say – the performance is almost perfected, as the actors and creatives understand the audience and know exactly what to deliver and when. What this show is not, is a deep, emotional, layered story. The plot is so peculiar, and it pushes so many limits, I ended up barely understanding the ending of the second act – as the explosion of new themes, random laser gun fights and new outfit reveals just blew my mind. But it doesn’t matter, really (I can’t believe I’m saying this).
For those of you who haven’t seen the show yet: Richard O’Brien’s 1973 story is based on the classic premise of the “Good Boy and Good Girl” who find themselves stuck in a random place during a road trip and walk to a nearby castle to use a phone. That’s where they meet a “family” led by Frank-N-Furter – a mad scientist, bent on creating the perfect life form to serve as his sexual plaything. Things get weird, clothes come off and desires get unleashed.
Leading the cast, as the unforgettable Frank-N-Furter, is Stephen Webb. What a perfect casting here! Webb rocks every single outfit and truly owns the stage, and even does some impressive jumps and choreography in his killer high heels. As a person who can’t properly run in heels, I admire skills like these a lot. From the moment he enters the lights in his black cape and signature makeup, until the very last second of the show, he has the audience spellbound with his charisma. I couldn’t believe how comfortably he moved and danced in a tight corset and tights – it all just seemed completely natural. He had so much fun being Frank – flirting with the audience, and getting a (well-deserved) round of applause every time he showed up in a new outfit.
The narrator, played by Jackie Clune, was the highlight of the show. Clune, in her classy suit and a creepy book in her hands, looked like some sort of a charismatic pastor, during a Sunday service. Instead of a sermon, she delivered a ridiculous – partly improvised – story, while participating in a completely bonkers “conversation” with the audience. The seriousness on her face, mixed with random Liz Truss jokes and sexual puns – what a feast of experience it was!
Kristian Lavercombe is astounding as the creepy servant of the castle, Riff Raff – and also, completely unrecognisable from his photo of his displayed in the programme. The hair and the make-up department did a remarkable job here. Darcy Finden shines in her crazy dance sequences, and over-the-top vocal performance, but when it gets to her solo monologue towards Frank in the second act, she confidently delivers one of the unusually sad and serious moments of the show.
The production had its downs, especially in the second act. Certain moments seemed a bit long and draggy (“Superheroes”), but the saving grace of every slower moment was the fantastic rock’n’roll band that performed every number with such energy and charm. The band members were barely visible as they sat on top of the stage set, covered by decorations – I wished they were more visible during the show.
The stage set, for a touring production, wqas quite impressive. There were lots of moving elements and revolving doors that transformed the flamboyant red velvet hall into a creepy lab basement. Lighting played a huge role here – I can’t stress that enough. The skilled work of Nick Richings turned the stage from a bright room into a proper rock concert.
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” delivered the most ridiculously fun and sexy night I’ve had in a while. With the overwhelming excitement of the crowd, stunning costumes and boundless audience participation, this is a show you just want to shout from the rooftops (or at least tell your friends about). Just make sure to grab a bottle or a glass before – this is one of these shows that gain in value as you get slightly more and more tipsy (Frank would approve!).
The New Wimbledon Theatre
21 November 2022 – 26 November 2022
and then touring the UK! More locations and dates here