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posted/updated: 12 Feb 2019 -
Rocky Horror Show - ★★★★
Richard O'Brien. Produced by Howard Panter for Trafalgar Theatre Productions.
society/company: New Wimbledon Theatre (professional) (directory)
performance date: 11 Feb 2019
venue: New Wimbledon Theatre
reviewer/s: Paul Johnson (Sardines review)

The Rocky Horror Show. Photo: David Freeman


The biggest cult musical of all time, penned by the equally iconic Richard O’Brien, is touring the country again and, this week, skims the capital at New Wimbledon Theatre. Produced by Rocky Horror fan and ex-ATG CEO, Howard Panter, this current show has been doing the rounds for six years now and was first put together to celebrate the musical’s 40th anniversary.

The latest cast to bring wholesome sweethearts Brad and Janet face to face with Frank N Furter’s eclectic crowd of erotic aliens include the perfectly cast Joanne Clifton and Ben Adams as the pair from ‘Pleasantville’ who appear to have come as a package straight from touring the country with Flashdance the Musical. Trigger Happy TV’s Dom Joly fits right in as he picks up the Narrator’s book; Stephen Webb gives a distinct suggestion of Eddie Izzard as the Sweet Transvestite himself, while Kristian Lavercombe once more sports the hunched back and straggling locks of ‘Mr Time Warp’ – a.k.a. Riff Raff (a role he has now played more than anybody in history).

There’s no doubting that the show brings with it a huge party atmosphere wherever it plays. In Wimbledon this week I lost count of the number of Usherettes, Columbias, Magentas and dragged-up Franks in the press night audience. However, Christopher Lucombe’s production – designed in a cardboard-built B-movie style by Hugh Durrant – is possibly in danger of becoming a little over-polished.

Cult productions undoubtedly make their mark despite being a little rough around the edges, but that’s their great charm. When I was informed by a Rocky Horror die hard (seen the show almost 30 times) during the interval this week that many of the spontaneous heckles mostly directed at Brad, Janet and the Narrator – among others – were actually shouted by a ‘plant’ in the audience it did slightly take the shine off the show. I have since been reliably informed by members of the cast that the idea of a 'plant' in the audience is completely untrue. Such is this show’s cult status it even has a certified 'Audience Participation Script'.

I just feel that in fully commercialising the production and taking it to the masses it inevitably risks losing the very spirit of what got it there in the first place. That said, Clifton and Adams bring us a beautifully cheesy and naïve duo in Brad (“Asshole!”) and Janet (“Slut!”). Some of the show's best numbers come from these two in the first twenty minutes where Clifton particularly boasts some fine vocals.

Elsewhere, Dom Joly gave a well-received yawn when somebody yelled “Hello!!” in homage to his early (17 years old) Trigger Happy TV days. Great praise must also go to Callum Evans as Frank N Furter’s muscular and tanned creation, Rocky, who performed the most agile and versatile acrobatics seemingly without any effort whatsoever.

Lavercombe’s resemblance to O’Brien’s own performance as Riff Raff in the cult film is uncanny, which is presumably why he is now the go-to actor for the role. And finally Stephen Webb adopts a fine strut as stocking-clad Frank, although a little more connection with the audience would go down a storm.

It’s all one big party in Wimbledon this week, and in the era of LGBTQ+ becoming a fully paid up member of modern society then this show is right up there with the best of them.

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The Rocky Horror Show. Photo: David Freeman

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