The Rocky Horror Show
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Until Saturday 19 November 2022
Richard O'Brien's homage to the B movie rolls back into Newcastle this week. The show that encourages the audience to "don't dream it, be it" is a cult hit that frequently smashes the fourth wall. It is one musical in which the audience are a component of the three ringed circus.
The tale is a well used favourite in the movie industry. A young newly engaged couple are out driving to see Dr Scott (Joe Allen) and their car requires attention as they have a flat tyre. Brad (Richard Meek) and Janet (Hayley Flaherty) decide to ask for help at a nearby castle. Unwittingly they have stumbled upon a situation that they can't initially fully appreciate as they are so naïve. Riff Raff (Kristian Lavercombe) invites them in to the house when they ask to use a phone to call for help. They meet his sister Magenta (Suzie McAdam) and fellow staff member Columbia (Darcy Finden). The magnitude of the situation they have landed themselves becomes more apparent as Frank N Furter (Stephen Webb) appears.
This is a show that has run for nearly 50 years because the cast throws themselves into the action. It is their energy, their willingness to give a slice of themselves, that makes this show feel fresh each time that I have seen it.
Then there is the audience. It is an unusual show in which the action and dialogue gets cat calls from the stalls. Narrator Jackie Clune in particular is happy to bat back the audience reaction. Just like heckling at a comedy club, there are times they get put in their place - which frequently got the bigger laugh. It may seem strange if you've never seen the show before. Press night was at the tame end of matters but at least the heckles did not disrupt the flow of the show as happened during a previous tour/review. If you're going to shout out then please get your timing right (as happened tonight).
It may be based upon a love of B-movies and start with props that wouldn't be out of place on Plan 9 From Outer Space, but the set design from Hugh Durrant quickly shows it is a cut above the shows early Fringe beginnings. From the initial curtain which reminded me of going to the Tyneside Cinema for the late night double bills in the 1990s to putting the band above the action - it is well worked out. The lighting is also different to a standard show. Nick Richings design frequently moves out over the audience, helping to create that feeling of being a part of the experience. I've already mentioned the band and MD Charles Ingles and his talented musicians didn't put a foot wrong all night.
Of course it is the cast that are the primary foci on stage and they worked really well as an ensemble. The singing, choreography and tongue-in-cheek dialogue was always as charming as the concept demands. Just like a B-movie, the running time is a slightly shorter than many musicals but this helps ensure nothing drags. At two hours including interval there is plenty of songs and action. There is even a chance for the audience to get on their feet and "Do The Time Warp Again"... Other musicals may stick a song or two on at the end for the audience but this show gets full participation on the dance moves.
Casting has been very successful with this show. Stephen Webb stands out as Frank N Furter (as he should) - it is a role that really suits him. As he interacts with the others he is debonair. Likewise his staff come across as assured, and Janet and Brad undergo their transformations seemlessly.
The Rocky Horror Show is not for everyone - certainly not for kids - but it is probably an experience nearly everyone should try - if you like it you will want to do it again. The show's inclusivity and broadminded nature has helped it to march on towards its 50th anniversary.
Believe it or not I'm not one of the hard core fans. I never owned the record nor have I felt a need to watch the movie more than once. Having said that, I really enjoyed this (and previous productions.)
The Rocky Horror Show delivers a well needed boost of positivity. It is nice to leave a show with a feel good factor.
Review: Stephen Oliver
Photos: Richard Davenport
The Rocky Horror Show plays Newcastle Theatre Royal Tuesday 15 – Saturday 19 November 2022. Tickets are priced from £15.00 and can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.