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Rocky Horror Show - Royal and Derngate Review

Fast approaching its 50th anniversary next year, Richard O'Brien's undeniably brilliant Rocky Horror Show has arrived in Northampton on the final leg of the current stint of the World Tour.

The cast of Rocky Horror. Photo by Dave Freeman.

Step into Frank's laboratory for an evening of debauched fun as the virginal couple Brad and Janet are forced to stop at a mysterious castle in the middle of nowhere after their car breaks down. The castle just happens to belong to alien transvestite Frank 'N' Furter from the planet Transexual. This sets off an unforgettable evening of sex and murder.

Chris Luscombe's long association with the show continues as he once more directs this current tour and his vision continues to be brilliant. The B-movie inspired set by Hugh Durrant adds a cinematic feel to the production and the iconic costumes by Sue Blane who created the original costumes for the stage and film versions of Rocky Horror delight with many of the audience donning their own takes on the outfits. Fabulous lighting designed by Nick Richings adds texture and atmosphere to the show.

Music is central to the piece and Richard O'Brien's beloved score contains big rock and roll numbers such as 'The Time Warp' that has the audience on their feet joining in and quieter ballads such as Brad's sweet solo 'Once In A While' sung after both he and Janet have separately bedded with Frank. A cracking band under musical director Greg Arrowsmith makes a great noise throughout aided by the great sound design of Gareth Owen and the sound team.

Stephen Webb is simply hot as Frank 'N' Furter, right from his storming big entrance with 'Sweet Transvestite' to his ultimate demise, you can't help but be drawn to his presence. Webb's dazzling central performance enchants and delights. 

The cast of Rocky Horror. Photo by Dave Freeman

Haley Flaherty is delightful to watch as she bursts out of her shell and blossoms into a liberated young lady who lets her desires take over. Her rendition of 'Touch-A-Touch-A-Touch-Me' stands out in the second act. Ore Oduba confidently brings nerdy charm to Brad and is a good pairing alongside Flaherty.

Rocky Horror has its own unique audience interaction as the crowd will call back to some of the lines. Don't be afraid of this, it adds to the fun. As a somewhat seasoned Rocky Horror watcher now I had no shame in joining in these callbacks. Philip Franks, who narrates the piece, does a brilliant job in dealing with the shoutouts as he ab-libs his own responses to hilarious effect. 

Kristian Lavercombe continues his record-breaking run as Riff Raff and is so perfectly cast that it's not hard to see why he has played the role in various countries and productions. He is matched by a terrific Suzie McAdam as a sexual, sensual and big-voiced as Magenta and as the Usherette. Lauren Ingram is a delightful sweet Columbia who has a stand-alone moment after her character is gassed in the second act.

Ben Westhead captures the fresh-out-the-box feel to Frank's creation Rocky, and the way he develops the role throughout is excellent to watch. Joe Allen gets two roles, an epic first-act cameo as the short-lived (literally) Eddie and as scientist and tutor Dr. Scott in act two. Both Allen pulls off with great flair and a strong vocal.

Special mention must go to the four Phantoms, Reece Budin, Jordan Fox, and particularly Darcy Finden and Rachel Grundy who have boundless energy throughout and can't help but catch your eye. 

Rocky Horror is more than just a piece of theatre. The costumes, the atmosphere and the shared joy. This is a show about inclusivity without any judgement. Come as you are and you'll be welcomed into the world. Seeing strangers sharing photos together in their outfits in the foyer to people being up on their feet together dancing 'The Time Warp'. Rocky Horror is one big welcoming family and whether you're a Rocky virgin or a seasoned goer like myself this show feels like a safe space. If anything the show feels more relevant and current than ever.

Sure if you analysed the show it's all a bit bonkers but it's two hours of fantastic escapism delivered by a tremendous company of actors, musicians and stage crew. Don't dream it, see it - unadulterated joy. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Rocky Horror Show continues at Royal and Derngate until Saturday 9th July 2022. Tickets are available from https://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/. The show goes on a break over the summer but resumes in August with a week of performances in Tel Aviv before the tour restarts in October in Coventry. Full details can be found on http://timewarp.org.uk/

The cast of Rocky Horror. Photo by Dave Freeman

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