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Don't dream it: Janet, (Haley Flaherty) Dr Scott (Nathan Amzi) and Rocky (Dominic Tribuzio) try to be it with Brad (Richard Meek) and  Columbia (Ceris Hine) behind

The Rocky Horror Show

Wolverhampton Grand

****

THE Rocky Horror Show is probably the most fun an audience can have in a theatre with its clothes on - or, in in the case of many of its number - with most of its clothes off.

The show generates acres of flesh squeezing out of basques, suspenders fishnets and assorted costumes among the paying punters with at least one gentleman not having thought through the sartorial nuances of wearing a rather fetching outfit when it came to a visit to the comfort zone, as the Americans would have it, at the break. Basques are a just that bit short on flies.

The show has always encouraged audience participation but that has been toned down a little by theatres over the years who now discourage the hurling of rice, Bounty bars and Kit Kats on stage and a deluge from high powered water pistols as cheap FX for the storm scene.

The shouts and comments are still there though and this must be one of the few if not the only show with an audience participation script available - indeed the internet can boast several versions - with what to shout, when and where so woe betide any poor actor who fluffs his lines with several hundred prompts a night out there.

Amid the shouts from amateur Rockys - and a few horrors -  with their audience scripts we had the usual mix of crudity badly disguised as wit, shouts at inappropriate moments and, thankfully, some genuinely funny heckles.

The excellent cast must have heard it all before though and Ainsley Harriot, as the Narrator camped it up with the best of them carrying a packet of his couscous around ready for the inevitable comment about his career.

To most people he is a TV chef but don’t forget it is less than 20 years ago that Ainsley was half of the double act The Calypso Twins on the London comedy circuit where he no doubt picked up the art of working an audience. If you can't do it in the comedy clubs you die.

Star of the show though was undoubtedly David Bedella (above) and his voice as smooth and dark as rich chocolate who brings Frank ‘N’ Furter to louche life.

He struts around the stage with his tongue so far into his cheek it must have been close to coming out of his ear - which in any Rocky show would not have been surprising.

He played unashamedly to the audience usually responding to heckles with a look, a smile or a gesture although one particularly crude comment did elicit a response as to whether  the heckler was speaking from experience. His voice is like rich velvet

ANY TIME DAY OR NIGHT

For those who have been in a time warp this Richard O’Brien phenomenon which first saw the dark of night in the 63-seat Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court in 1973 has been going almost continuously ever since. It is almost like I Love Lucy and M.A.S.H. in that somewhere in the world at any time night or day there is probably a Rocky Horror performance going on.

It is a camp pastiche of B-movie science fiction and horror films with Janet (Haley Flarerty) and Brad (Richard Meek) just engaged and stranded on a lonely country road in a thunderstorm.

But what luck! They have just past a large gothic castle lit up by flashes of lightning so why not disregard every danger sign and knock on the door for help.

Riff-Raff (Brian McCann) welcomes them in and they find themselves in a world where every low budget and sensationally bad horror and alien movie of the 40s and 50s seems to have found a home.

One lovely touch was a bank of TV monitors where Frank tracked the movement of  Dr Scott (Nathan Amzi) while the audience tracked the movement of Riff-Raff behind the screens holding the cut out of the doctor in his wheelchair as its shadow went across the screens. Some of those 50s horror films had special effects that would not give you much change out of a fiver and it was nice to see that tradition kept alive.

STRONG NUMBERS

It is great fun, high energy and the excellent five-piece band do a wonderful job playing around heckles, interruptions and asides which is no easy job.

 Time Warp is the best known of the songs but there are a number of strong numbers in there and all the songs are performed well by an enthusiastic cast.

One word of warning though. Rocky does have a smattering of naughty bits . . . or to put it another way it has quite a lot of  explicit sexual content so anyone taking children - or maiden aunts who think sex is what coal comes in in Solihull - should be aware of that.

Not that the sexual content is particularly crude or  mucky, far from it, it is camp and stylised and is more cartoon than erotic. It is designed to produce laughs rather than shock but it is there all the same. Very tongue in cheek . . . amongst other places. Vulgar with a smile rather than a snigger. So you have been warned.

That being said you would hope that anyone who goes to see a show where the star is a bloke plastered in make-up wearing a basque,  suspenders, fishnets and high heels might just have an inkling this is not likely to be the sequel to The Sound of Music.

You get the feeling the cast - and a large chunk of the audience - are there to enjoy themselves come what may and the feeling is infectious. It is nigh impossible to see the show and not come out smiling. To 27-02-10

 Roger Clarke  

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