Gillian Fisher reviews the touring production from Trafalgar Entertainment at the New Wimbledon Theatre.

On a cold night in darkest London, something strange is afoot. Outside New Wimbledon Theatre, the air seems to ripple with excited chatter and spontaneous singing. People are garbed in the most elaborate of outfits, snatches of lace and embroidered corsets exposing thighs and midriffs to the sharp February air. This can mean only one thing. The Rocky Horror Show is in town.

This touring production from Trafalgar Entertainment was gracing the Wimbledon stage for one week only. Despite the short run, the set designed by Hugh Darrant is fantastically extravagant. The cast is transported from a decadent castle hall to a sinister laboratory with a few elaborate props and lightning speed scenery changes from the multitalented ‘Phantoms.’

Ben Adams and Joanne Clifton in The Rocky Horror Show. Photo by David Freeman.

The show is an explosive parade of horror movie clichés and science fiction parody, delivered by a supremely energetic cast. While Richard O’Brien’s plot may be more stretched than a hippo’s knicker elastic, it serves as the perfect vehicle for the medley of body rocking songs and flagrant characters. Two corn fed American kids, Brad Majors and Janet Weiss seek shelter in a mysterious castle owned by the flamboyant Frankie and his outlandish band of misfits.

It is a challenge for any artist to play Frankie without enacting a Tim Curry impression. Stephen Webb not only avoids this, but brings a kind of gleeful cheekiness to the role. His superb vocals come into their own in his solo numbers, even bringing some genuine emotion into Frankie’s swansong, ‘I’m Going Home.’

Since its first performance in 1973, The Rocky Horror Show has been performed in over 30 countries with countless different companies. This production directed by Christopher Luscombe has struck the perfect balance of fast paced action and dramatic irony. Even our newbie cast members Joanne Clifton (Janet) and Ben Adams (Brad) are tuned in to the audience’s response. They know just when to pause for a shout out, before delivering their lines with savvy alertness. Strictly Come Dancing star Clifton’s Janet resembles a coltish Doris Day, while a1 singer Adams is resolutely gawky as Brad.

Callum Evans in The Rocky Horror Show. Photo by David Freeman.

This production repeatedly hits its mark with the musical performances and the dance numbers choreographed by Nathan M Wright. The cast perform the renowned ‘Time Warp’ with gusto, thrusting their pelvises as if for the very first time. A rather titillating feature is the gravity defying exploits of Rocky Horror played by Callum Evans. Frankie’s muscle man creation backflips across the stage as though on strings, adding an extra bit of dynamacy to the already spectacular proceedings.

Alongside the brilliant music and catchphrase laden script, one of my favourite aspects of The Rocky Horror Show is the audience participation. Glancing around the audience, I noticed a middle aged man having the time of his life in a velvet basque and top hat, while countless diehard fans took their seats in laboratory gowns, maid outfits and oh so many colourful wigs.

This tour seems particularly geared towards embracing the audience as another (very loud) member of the cast, which Dom Joly excels at in his role as Narrator. Combining scholarly gravitas with witty comebacks, Joly creates a running dialogue with audience ensuring everyone is in on the joke.

46 years since its first staging in the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, The Rocky Horror Show remains as funny, outrageous and thrilling as ever. The current production manages to bring a fresh tone to the established work, making it a night out you will remember for a very long time.

 

★★★★★

The touring production will next be playing at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking from 4th March. For more information and tickets, visit the website here.