Back on the road with a brand new production for its fortieth anniversary, Richard O'Brien's Rocky Horror Show is doing the Time Warp in Glasgow once again. The perfect marriage of smut and song, Christopher Luscombe's second production of this raucous show celebrates Rocky's birthday with a fun and frenetic festival of colour and light which,whilst somewhat lacking in the drama of the piece, grabs its audience by the hair, pops a kazoo in the mouth and demands that they blow.
The Rocky Horror Show is what Danny and Sandy got up to during that infamous period of "Summer Lovin'". It's the classic American love story, really: boy meets girl; boy falls in love with girl; boy and girl set off to celebrate their engagement; boy's car tyre explodes; boy and girls seeks refuge in the arms of a mad scientist with a penchant for killer heels and, before you can say "keep your hand on your halfpenny", they're both wearing suspenders and contemplating a career in an Amsterdam window box. Throw in a Frankenstein-inspired creation in a pair of ridiculously small hot-pants, a tap-dancing pixie and an incestuous butler with a hump (ahem...) and you have one of the sassiest, one of the sexiest shows ever to hit the stage.
And it is this mixture of fun and frolics in the character and comedy that has had audiences scrambling for tickets, buying a cheap lipstick from Boots and borrowing their sister's heels for forty years. O'Brien's Bowie-esque songs are amongst the finest in musical theatre, marrying lyrical sensitivity and wit with genuinely exciting and entrancing melodies. This is a heartfelt and entertaining show which could have you reaching for a tissue or a Malibu and coke to carry with you onto the dance floor.
But, perhaps, this Rocky Horror has been drinking a little too much formaldehyde. Yes, the show itself could please a crowd like Dr. Frank N. Furter with a box of Viagra but this production has lost much of the stagecraft and dramatic jeopardy which made recent revivals so enjoyable. There is very little that is done in Nick Richings lighting design to accentuate the Gothic horror at the dark heart of the show and the final Floor Show, a once spectacular moment of glamour and grandeur, has been reduced to a cheap glitter curtain and a few feather boas that look like slaughtered Big Birds. Whilst there are some genuinely beautiful pieces of design in Hugh Durrant's, the remit here nonetheless seems to be that of a party night. And whilst that is fine and fun, it nonetheless feels dramatically shallow.
Richard O'Brien famously said that the actor playing Frank N. Furter should be able to wander into his audience and seduce both husband and wife. Whilst Oliver Thorton is camp as kitten heels, his freaky kind of Franky is an unusual yet pleasing mixture of Tim Curry's vocal and Matt Smith's awkward Englishness. Furthermore, he has that necessary mad scientist jolt and excels in the show's denouement.
Flanking Frank, Ben Forster's Brad is endearing, energetic and well-sung, and Roxanne Pallett is loveable and sweet as Janet. Perhaps the greatest joy of the night's Philip Franks' exceptional narrator - his sense of comedy has better timing than Big Ben, his responses to the infamous audience callbacks are witty and eloquent and his delivery of the story's narration is achieved with such relish, such wonder and such passion.
So... what should we ask of the Rocky Horror Show? Should it be a "transvestite Hamlet" where drama and atmosphere have a place at the party or should we just give ourselves over to absolute pleasure? Can we forgive Rhydian's downright appalling fake-tan if he appears in a production that still inspires us to take that step to the right? Or perhaps we all ought to be a little bit more like Brad Majors and adapt to the occasion, no matter what life thrusts towards us.
The Rocky Horror Show is at the King's Theatre, Glasgow, from Monday 25th February until Saturday 2nd March.