Review: Rocky Horror Show

Stephanie Cottle gets an unusual, intimate insight to a performance often closer to pantomime

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For better or for worse Blackpool has acquired a reputation for its appeal to the stags and hen parties of Britain. It’s not unusual to be walking through the town centre in the evenings and find large parties of tipsy French maids and cohorts of men in miniskirts with pint glass-smudged lipstick pouts. It’s the perfect setting then for an evening indulgence in the infamously raunchy Rocky Horror Show. But although I had high expectations of fancy dress efforts by an army of Frankie fans I was sorely disappointed – the streets around the Winter Gardens were quiet without a PVC-clad bottom in sight.

I was further disappointed to see few PVC-clad bums on seats inside the venue too – this was the fourth time I had been to the show and by far the fewest number of audience members I’ve witnessed. Rocky Horror is enhanced enormously by audience interaction. What impact would there be should the cheeky script innuendos be met without response? I needn’t have worried. As the opening song Science Fiction/Double Feature came to its close the audience’s well-rehearsed jeers began. They may not have been out in their masses but the spectators weren’t going to allow this to be the blandest Rocky Horror in history.

The smaller crowd was a plus in that it didn’t distract from the representations portrayed on stage and allowed the more delicate aspects of the performance to shine through. Rocky Horror can be compared to the traditional British pantomime. There are men in women’s clothes, exaggerated speech and movement, and a considerable amount of audience participation. During the evening’s show I managed to glimpse what lies underneath the eccentric façade. Throughout the performance the actors played their roles with enormous skill. Timing and delivery of lines was nigh on perfect and during the song Over at the Frankenstein Place I was blown away by the vocal range of Kristian Lavercombe (Riff Raff). It makes sense that Kristian has performed in the Rocky Horror almost a thousand times – his representation of the character is sublime, effortlessly contorting his face and body to create the angled creature.

I was also pleasantly surprised by Dominic Anderson’s performance as Rocky, having been sceptical about the brunette actor portraying what is traditionally the man with blond hair and a tan. I was impressed that the crew had rejected the show’s usual terrible blond wig. The actor had all the qualities of the creature of the night, including a much enhanced physique. It was apparent he had worked hard and was an asset to the rest of the cast.

Steve Punt (who has previously played Eric Idle in the BBC’s drama Holy Flying Circus) provided the perfect accompaniment as narrator. His responses to audience interaction were well devised and original. The show provides opportunity for ad lib and I got the impression from his manner that the comedian is well equipped to deal with any unforeseen circumstances the rest of the tour may throw at him.

This showing of Rocky Horror gave unusual, intimate insight to a performance that can often be taken at face value. Having said that, I hope by the end of the week those empty seats are filled by the sequin-clad and leather-constricted time warpers.

Rocky Horror Show was at Blackpool Opera House, 26 Sept-1 Oct. It heads to Liverpool Empire Theatre, 11-22 Oct; Manchester Opera House, 24-29 Oct; and Leeds Opera House 7-12 Nov

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