rocky head

Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show

Wolverhampton Grand

****

LIKE a wickedly naughty, favourite uncle, breezing in amid a swirl of mayhem, excitement and fun, happily leading everyone astray, Rocky Horror is back in town.

Richard O’Brien’s musical homage tFrank and Rockyo the sci-fi and horror films that populated the ranks of the B-movies from the 1940s to the 1970s is heading, ungracefully as ever, into middle age - it is 43 on Thursday – but is still refusing to grow up.

It is still as juvenile, silly and gloriously funny as ever and has a growing cult following, who arrive in suitably risqué attire - basques, suspenders, and fishnets being the order of the day, particularly for men, some of whom had that Bambi on ice look as they walked in their high heels.

Liam Tamne as Frank and Dominic Andersen as Rocky

Not that it is just fancy dress. In this show, more than any other, audience participation is not just encouraged but is essential, they are as big a star as any of the characters on stage, and in truth, without them, much of the fun and many of the laughs would vanish and we would be left with a rather silly musical.

With them it has become a theatrical institution which even has its own script and etiquette for audiences and on Press night large numbers of the Wolverhampton faithful were not only dressed up for it but remarkably well rehearsed.

The story is simple, Brad and Janet are off to see an old teacher, Dr Scott, but their car breaks down, (cue thunder, lightning and rain) so they head to the nearest gloomy, gothic castle. Full of weirdos and with a butler/dogsbody called Riff Raff, although it could easily have been Igor, it would not seem to be the ideal spot to seek assistance.

The owner appears to be Frank-N-Furter who has just knocked up a creature, as all owners of gothic castles have to do by B-movie law, a perfect specimen of manhood by the name of Rocky.

Liam Tamne, who had a solid West End CV behind him before appearing on BBC1’s The Voice, takes on the iconic roll of Frank, a pansexual cross dresser, with mischievous camp delight while his faithful manservant, Riff Raff, with the obligatory hunchback and trailing crippled leg, is played by Kristian Lavercombe, who is approaching his 1,000 appearance in the show in productions as far apart as Australia and New Zealand Asia and . . . Birmingham.

And staffing the Gothic pile are hand maidens, or whatever, Columbia played by Sophie Linder-Lee, bringing humour to the part, and Magenta played by Kay Murphy, who exudes a sort of debauched sexuality in the role.

She also plays the Usherette who opens and closes the performance with Science Fiction/Double Feature.

At the more human end of the cast we have Diane Vickers, an X-factor finalist and star of the 2009 West End revival of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, who plays the young and innocent, or at least she is when we started, Janet Weiss with Richard Meek as the nerdy Brad Majors, her devoted but dull fiancé.

Then S Club 7’s Paul Cattermole has the dual role of failed rocker experiment Eddie, who goes to pieces, helped by Frank and his chopper, soon after his appearance, which leaves Paul free to take up the role of the mysterious, wheelchair bound scientist Dr Scott.

Keeping order, in a remarkably laid back way, is the narrator, played by Dudley-born Norman Pace, perhaps still best known for his double act with Gareth Hale. Norman, and Gareth, have become accomplished actors since leaving Hale and Pace on a back burner, but the stand-up skills honed over the years were still there in dealing with the obligatory heckles from the audience.

And as for Rocky, well if Dominic Andersen had a misspent youth it was misspent in the gym as he displays a fine six pack in a well toned body.

Hugh Durrant’s set is comic book style and flexible, with revolving walls while Sue Blane’s costumes add a sort a decadent feel to proceedings, slutty rather than sophisticated one might say, particularly in the case of Frank and Magenta.

Nick Richings’ lighting design gives us lots of lightning and drama as well as a whole bank of swirling spots sweeping the audience as if searching for anyone daring to not be enjoying themselves.

The music from the five piece band, under musical director Ben Van Tienen, perched on a shelf in the flies at the back of the stage, was excellent, a sound much larger than their number would suggest.

It took just 20 minutes for everyone to be on their feet for the first Time Warp and no time at all to get them back up at the end. This is a people’s show and yes, it is a little crude with double entendre and, to be honest, lots of single entendres as well. Even a maiden aunt who thought sex was what coal came in might have worked out the bed scene was not about a particularly restless night.

But it is all good natured crudity, nothing sleazy about it, just good . . . lewd fun. So don your basque and fishnets and set the Time Warp for Transsexual, Transylvania. To 18-06-16.

Roger Clarke

13-06-16 

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