Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Theatre Review: Rocky Horror Show

'Give yourself over to absolute pleasure.'

It's a famous line from the cult classic Richard O'Brien's Rocky Horror Show, and also, it's our one line review of the current show and cast on tour around the UK, directed by Christopher Luscombe, and in Birmingham until Saturday 25th May 2019 at the Alexandra Theatre.

We are HUGE Rocky Horror fans. I have watched the film in costume at an event at least once per year since I was 16 (that's a lot of years, people!) and I had a huge poster of Frank N' Furter, one of the main characters, played in the film by Tim Curry, above my bed in my childhood bedroom. In the 10 years Sarah and I have been together, we have attended these events together, and have dressed up as dozens of characters over the years. It's a big deal to us.

This was my actual poster!
(There were the times we went to London to watch it on the big screen here and here.
Our first RHPS viewing party at home with Annabelle and meatloaf feet here.)

However we have each only seen a theatre production of RHPS once before, both over 12 years ago, so when we were invited to review this production of the Rocky Horror Show, we were intruiged as to what we could expect. How could anyone live up to the characters brought to life on screen by Tim Curry, Richard O'Brien, and Susan Sarandon (among others)?

We donned our Columbia (Sarah) and Eddie (Laura) costumes and arrived at the Alexandra to a lively, excited and dressed up audience. One of our favourite things about Rocky Horror is how much those who love it, love it. There were characters seated all around us, and there were two older ladies next to us who were Rocky Horror virgins (they hadn't seen it before) and didn't know what to expect. I couldn't think of how to explain what was about to happen on stage to them, so I just said that it was strange and they would love it!

To try to explain it to any Rocky Horror virgins reading, Brad and his fiancee Janet are clean cut kids who have just gotten engaged, they decide to go see their school science teacher who introduced them. Sadly on their way they get a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere, so visit a nearby castle to use their phone, and end up with, well, a lot more than they bargained for.

But honestly, the plot isn't what you come to Rocky Horror for. You come for an experience - a funny, shocking, wildly inappropriate one where the audience is part of the show, an experience that you can't get anywhere else; which was indeed delivered by this production.

From the moment the show started, we were absolutely blown away. The set was really cleverly designed by Hugh Durrant, quite small but effective setting the scenes and transitioning between them. The live band, under the direction of Musical Director George Carter, were hidden at the top of the stage, and did a great job. We absolutely loved the cast, they were very likeable, drew us in immediately, and they each brought their own spin to these classic characters.

Some of our favourite actors were Duncan James of Blue fame, who played a fantastic Frank - he was the perfect balance of masculine and feminine, attractive to everyone, as that character needs to be, and side note, he is so buff! We also loved 90's boyband A1's Ben Adams as Brad and ex-Strictly Come Dancing star Joanne Clifton as Janet (though their American accents were SO strong, I think purposeful hyperbole, but I kept thinking, do I sound like that??), and Kristian Lavercombe was a hilarious and creepy Riff Raff.

One character we thought was better than expected was Rocky, played by Callum Evans - in the movie, besides muscly, he doesn't have a lot else to him, but in this theatre production, he was laugh out loud funny, he had much more character to him. Also, Callum is a gymnast, which was a great casting choice as he had the audience 'Oooooh'ing and 'Aahhhh'ing at his incredible gymnastics onstage!

Finally, it was wonderful to see Brummie Alison Hammond as The Narrator, a role that traditionally gets heckled by the audience to quite a degree - she was so much fun, you could tell she really enjoyed clapping back at the audience yelling out funny things in response to her lines, and once when she accidentally missed her cue and recovered rather hilariously, she had us all in stitches!

Rocky Horror Show is a unique musical because the audience is encouraged to participate. From getting up to learn to dance to the Time Warp (where I got to speak to the girl next to me, Rocky Horror always helps you make friends!), to audience members yelling out funny lines in between lines from characters, to audience members even bringing props to use during scenes throughout the show, it is an experience unlike any other. What we loved about the show more than the movie was that the actors seemed to pause for some of the better known funny lines, so you got to really laugh at what was being said and not miss anything, where in the movie the scene continues despite the audience participation. Also, the Narrator especially really reacted to the funny lines, which made them even funnier!

At the end of the Rocky Horror Show, we all got to get up and dance to our favourite songs from the show, which was a wonderful way to end it and celebrate being there.

As self titled Rocky Horror connoisseurs, we know our stuff - and absolutely recommend that you, whether you're a seasoned party goer or a Rocky Horror virgin, catch this production of the Rocky Horror Show in Birmingham at the Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 25th May, or on tour around the UK until November 2019.

Other theatre reviews include:
HAIR - The Musical
Jersey Boys
Mamma Mia

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