Review: The Rocky Horror Show, New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

More than 40 years since The Rocky Horror Show made its debut - and a good couple of decades since I first encountered the experience – it was a bit of a Time Warp as I returned to see this cult musical one more time.

Review: The Rocky Horror Show, New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

Comedy stars Punt and Pace star in the production

And boy had I forgotten just what a good night it is!

Like riding a bike, you never forget how to ride the Rocky Horror Show experience no matter how long you wait between shows. I was immediately step perfect in the Time Warp, almost word perfect in such catchy numbers as Sweet Transvestite and Hot Patootie (Bless my Soul) and I even remembered a good few heckles if not exactly when to shout them.

The Rocky Horror Show is a unique theatre experience where audience participation is not only anticipated – it is an involuntary compulsion.

Despite being a Monday night in Birmingham, two thirds of the audience were dressed up as imitation Magentas, Riff Raffs and – the more daring – as Frank-N-Furter himself. Amid the sea of stockings, basques and wigs the audience becomes almost genderless with the sexes quite indistinguishable.

The atmosphere is excitable and the anticipation high before the curtain even rises as the colourful audience prepare to let loose on the brave cast behind.

The heckling begins almost immediately with well-rehearsed contributions hurled towards the stage by swathes of the audience at regular intervals.

Comedian Steve Punt plays the Narrator who bears the brunts of the heckles and traditionally engages with the crowd. Punt seemed to roll with the jeers throwing in his own improvisations – even Donald Trump got a mention. He easily got the crowd laughing with his unpredictable and original responses and his appearances were a highlight of the show.

The plot, as such, to the show sees newly-engaged couple Brad and Janet stumble across a creepy castle when their car breaks down in the middle of the night. Here they encounter the larger-than-life character Frank-N-Furter and his unusual companions enjoying one of his ‘affairs’.

During the evening he unveils his secret creation – muscle man Rocky (the super-toned Dominic Andersen who spends the whole evening with his torso exposed in supertight underpants. If only we could all create one of these creatures for the home!)

The party all seem to be getting on particularly well until matters take a strange turn with the appearance of missing biker Eddie, a dalliance by the bemused Rocky and the arrival of UFO investigator Dr Scott.

Liam Tamne is wonderfully camp, irresistibly captivating and slightly sinister as the rampant Frank-N-Furter but is further blessed with a strong voice to hold such powerful numbers as I’m Going Home and I Can Make You a Man.

There are solid performances from Haley Flaherty as Janet, Richard Meek as Brad and Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff – a difficult role to tackle having been so famously personified by show writer Richard O’Brien.

But a little bundle of energy and offering her own individual take on the character of Columbia was Sophie Linder-Lee. She had the likeability and vulnerability of this endearing young woman but also brought a lot of humour which often stole the scene.

Add to the mix an infectiously catchy musical score that is GUARANTEED to get the audience on its feet for at least one number, a relentless stream of innuendo and ‘naughtiness’ finished off with an emotional climax and you have a clear recipe for success.

No wonder then, that The Rocky Horror Show is still filling theatres 43 years since it was first performed with many theatre-goers returning again, and again, and again.

It is a timeless classic so if you haven’t seen it – and you will certainly be in the minority there – or you haven’t seen it for a while then get yourself down to the New Alexandra Theatre this week and let’s do the Time Warp again. Seriously, it’s just a jump to the left . . .

Runs at the theatre until October 15.


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