Rocky Horror SHow
Updated: Jun 10, 2022
Still the sexiest, raunchiest, funniest show in town
Way back in 1973 Richard O'Brien captured all the essence of his favourite horror, sci-fi and musical films, mixed them up with a heady dash of teenage sexual awakening and slapped the resulting show into a tiny upstairs theatre in the backstreets of London - and so, in keeping with the movies he was paying omage to, the monster was born.
Fast forward 40 years and the Rocky Horror Show is unparalleled in it's cult following. Fans take great pride in dressing up as their show heroes, there is an expected etiquette for both Vamps (regular watchers) and Virgins (first timers) and there is even an audience participation script which runs through the whole show with collective responses, props and approved heckles.
The story, for those who have yet to enter the seedy world of Transylvanian Transvestites is about a young couple who find themselves in the clutches of the weird and wonderful Dr Frank 'n' Furter - a cross dressing mix of Dracula and Gok Wan - and their descent from wholesome, mid-Americans to depraved, sex-crazed hedonists.
For the majority of fans, the first introduction to this show was through the movie version, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and it is to this that they constantly compare any stage productions. I have to admit, I do too (having at the latest count seen the movie over 450 times) - I have seen 16 different stage productions across the country and whilst they have all been thoroughly entertaining, there was always something missing which meant they just didn't match up to my favourite film - that was until now.
This 40th anniversary version is simply the very best I've seen - period. The direction stays so true to the original, the cast are perfect in every way and the set captures every nuance of the movie and original stage show. From first curtain to the last encore it never misses a beat - there's no attempt to change things for personal expression, there's no experiment in modernising and there's no straying from what has made this the most famous and beloved cut musical ever.
Dani Harmer as Janet is a divine blend of virginal innocence mixed with simmering vamp and boy, what a voice she packs into those little lungs of hers. Her accent was perfect mid-west which never faltered as she moved from cutesy to raunchy.
Ben Forster playing Brad managed to keep his geeky nerd on the right side of believable without straying into lampooning. He too has a great voice and was equally comfortable in belting as he was in ballads.
Of course, in every version of Rocky Horror, it's Frank 'n' Furter who holds centre stage - there has been an illustrious list of previous wearers of the man-sized basque; Jason Donovan, Jonathan Wilkes, Antony Head but again its the original, Tim Curry, who is always held as the best - well move over Tim for your tiara has been well & truly stolen. Oliver Thornton has everything the role requires, a gorgeous figure, handsome yet mischievous face and legs that should be used in hosiery adverts. Coupled with a stunningly good voice and a real sense of the history and expectations that go with the role Oliver plays Frank with all the respect it deserves.
There is a time honoured tradition of the audience heckling the oft appearances of the narrator, moving the role away from simply stitching the story together and instead acting as master of ceremonies and house manager. The roll call of previous narrators is almost as heady as the previous incarnations of Frank 'n' Furter but tonight Philip Franks was the best armed, best prepared and genuinely funniest of the lot. Philip managed to use every heckle to reinforce the reason for him being there while delivering hysterical yet none- dismissive comebacks which kept the whole audience on his side.
I unashamedly state that the Rocky Horror Show is my favourite show / film ever, so it is testament to the whole cast that I believe this version is as close to perfection as possible - for anyone who has ever enjoyed the movie and wished they had seen the original stage show you MUST go and see this. Darlington Civic is a great venue for this show; even though it was first night, on a Monday in July, it was a sell out with well over half the audience dressed for the occasion in basques, stockings, biker jackets, medical scrubs and no end of tattoos and bow ties. So, come up to the lab, see what's on the slab and enjoy shivering in ant-i-ci-pation.
The most fun you can have with half your clothes on