Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show
Grand Opera House, York
Till Saturday, April 16
I quickly become depressed every time I attend a performance of The Rocky Horror Show. Don’t get me wrong, it’s one of my favourite shows – but it is dispiriting being surrounded by men in fishnet tights whose legs are so much better than mine.
You can always tell when the show is in town.
Suddenly you start to see groups of men in basques and suspenders, women in short skirts and glittery top hats, and all kinds of people in dinner jackets with precariously-balanced party hats.
The Rocky Horror Show famously welcomes audience participation. Dressing as a character is positively encouraged, although sadly the days of water pistols, throwing rice at the wedding scene, and waving lighters in the air have now gone.
Theatre cleaners must be heaving a sigh of relief, along with front of house staff – as one told me, “When you get hit by rice thrown from the circle, it can really sting!”
(By the way, don’t try to flout the rules – anyone caught doing so is ejected from the performance.)
The tradition of shouting out particular phrases at characters still remains, although I would have to think quite hard to identify any fit for inclusion in a well-behaved theatre review like this. Sexual innuendo holds the show together, on both sides of the proscenium arch.
Takes it in his stride
The current tour boasts comedian Steve Punt as the narrator, who has to deal with a lot of the shouted comments. A seasoned performer, he takes it all in his stride, with ad libs and references to current events.
He guides us through the story, a spoof of all those terrible 1950s B-movies where science creates monsters, and beautiful women are rescued from certain death by square-jawed, handsome men.
Our teen heroes, Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, are played by Ben Kerr and Diana Vickers. Ben is an understudy, but I would never have guessed that without the note in the programme.
He gives a strong, confident performance, and has undeniable chemistry with Diana Vickers. They portray their development throughout the show very skilfully, and their final embrace is genuinely touching.
Lashings of fun
Our mad scientist, self-styled “Sweet Transvestite”, Dr Frank N Furter, is the magnificent Liam Tamne. You may recognise him from series three of The Voice.
He revels in the part, teasing and lashing out in turn, with no innuendo overlooked or lascivious movement omitted. He has wonderful rapport with the audience, and a powerful delivery of his songs. Unlike many Franks I’ve seen over the years, he really inspires our pity in his final scene.
Dominic Anderson, playing Frank’s creation, Rocky, has fantastic physical prowess,, whether doing one-handed press-ups or carrying Frank off the stage. His acting, singing and dancing are equally good – he’s not just a pretty body.
Kristian Lavercombe’s Riff Raff is a monstrous, wheedling, vicious creation which, although sometimes bringing to mind Richard O’Brien’s performance in the original stage show and film, nevertheless brings a refreshing edge to the character.
Kay Murphy, as his sister Magenta (and the usherette who opens and closes the show), has an amazing physical flexibility as well as a stunning voice – watch out for her gymnastic contortions at the end of “Planet Schmanet, Janet”, where she basically folds herself in half!
Columbia, one of the more sympathetic characters, is played by Sophie Linder-Lee. She also has an extraordinary vocal range, and a talent for physical comedy which gains her some very well-deserved rounds of applause.
As often happens, the roles of Eddie and Dr Scott are doubled by the same actor, in this case Paul Cattermole. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he spent part of his career as a member of S Club 7.
I can only imagine what his teenybopper fans would make of his sexually-charged performance of Hot Patootie (one of the most difficult songs in the show, because of the fast tempo of the music and the number of syllables packed into every line), let alone his transformation into the grey-haired wheelchair user, Dr Scott.
The chorus of Phantoms (Lauren Ingram, Will Knights, Hannah Malekzad, Zachary Morris and Emily McGougan) perform extraordinary, contorted movements while still singing, which is very impressive. The entire cast is perfectly choreographed, performing with high energy and an infectious enthusiasm.
The cleverly-designed set works hard to create a number of different locations, although at times it actually looks a little cheap for a touring production like this one.
The costumes are wonderful, the lighting is excellent, and the live band is absolutely fantastic.
The show runs for two hours, including a 20-minute interval. Do note the later starting time of 8pm. It is very definitely not for children, or for those who are easily offended.