Let’s do the Timewarp again!
In so many ways, Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show (the author now has his name at the beginning to stress that this is the real deal) is review-proof. Having recently notched up 40th anniversaries for both its original stage and movie versions, and with Kenny Ortega’s new production in the can for this October’s US TV broadcast, the phenomenon is in no danger of slowing down.
The audience that gathered for the Saturday performance of the Bournemouth leg of the latest tour were a mix of the fully costumed, the brand T-shirted and the bemused. Surely no-one going to a Rocky Horror Show performance can be surprised that they’ll be in the company of suspender-wearing middle-aged men with curly wigs or more conservative cosplayers in lab coats and surgical scrubs? And yet the odd eyebrow was still raised as someone going ‘the full Time Curry’ plonked themselves down in an aisle seat, ready to ‘jump to the left’ as the Time Warp kicked in.
A synopsis of the plot seems unnecessary, as few don’t already know the tale of the naïve Janet and Brad as they meet a cast of ghouls and aliens at a castle in the middle of nowhere. Richard O’Brien’s rock musical is his love song to 40s, 50s and 60s horror movies, sci-fi flicks and fantasy B movies. It crams countless genre references into its lyrics, costumes, characters and music through its tight 1 hour 45 minute running time.
The production’s standouts are Diana Vickers and Liam Tamne, both of whom gained public recognition through reality TV talent shows (The X Factor and The Voice respectively). But this is not a case of stunt casting to pull in a few more punters – the show is bigger than any name in the cast. Tamne’s fruity Frank channel’s Tim Curry at every step, as all Mr N-Furters are fated to do. Curry’s original performance will never be equalled, so it’s a case of plundering his finest moments while seeking new tics at every opportunity. Diana Vickers is particularly good as the virginal Janet Weiss, her strong voice punching out the witty lyrics as she succumbs to her hedonistic hosts.
Comedian Norman Pace (best known for his work with Gareth Hale) is a jolly Narrator, teasing the audience in readiness for the inevitable prescriptive heckles. His replies are witty and not always as you’d expect, breaking any suggestion of a fourth wall and inviting all to join in the fun.
I last saw the stage version 20 years ago and wondered how much it would had changed in that intervening period. In truth, very little. The laser effects might be a bit more accomplished and the innuendo is milked (tee hee) even more for every smutty giggle, but ultimately it’s the same old Rocky Horror. The set remains basic with very little stagecraft evident, but then that’s as it should be. It has always been about the joy of the experience.
More like a party than ever before, a night out at Rocky Horror isn’t just a trip to the theatre, it’s a hen party meets cabaret meets rock tribute act in basques.
Verdict: Frank-N-Furter-ly, you get exactly what it says on the tin. This is no radical reinvention of the perennial classic, it delivers what it promises and what the audience wants. And you can’t say fairer than that. You put your hands on your hips, and bring your knees in tight… 8/10