The Rocky Horror Show seems to be caught in its own time warp. A Rockette (or whatever it the Rocky Horror equivalent to a Trekkie is) would no doubt handcuff him or herself (in stilettos, of course) to Richard O'Brien's railings should a single line, gesture or hair streak dare to be changed by the insolence of a director who thinks he may know better.
And so it is with Christopher Malcolm's sparkling 30th anniversary outing, a re-heated version of the production in which Frank N Furter has been dragging his tacky fishnets and high heels around the country for at least the past decade. It doesn't matter one iota. Freezing a production in time (rather like the unfortunate Eddie (the terrific Drew Jameson) can either produce something dowdy and dated (like West Side Story) or a gloriously nostalgic celebration. Rocky Horror is the latter.
With its fully indoctrinated audience of devotees - kitted out in character costumes, outrageous (and outrageously well-rehearsed) interjections at the ready - Rocky Horror almost defies criticism. So unlike the small, sly production that opened at the Royal Court's tiny Theatre Upstairs all those years ago, it's now less a performance than a party. And, on that level, it works superbly well. Joining in with the cast and brilliant rock band led by Iain Vince-Gatt is mandatory, particularly so to Stacey Hayne's well-drilled "Time Warp".
Casting, too, is nearly irrelevant - and let's face it, any show that can survive Bobby Crush as Frank (which he played the part in the mid-1990s) must have something to offer. At the performance I attended, even the indisposition of current star Jonathan Wilkes couldn't dampen audience enthusiasm. Indeed, understudy Jon Boyden (who normally plays Brad, pictured) was outstanding in the lead, largely mimicking Tim Curry's definitively tawdry performance, with his cut-glass diction, a powerful voice, and a confident high-heeled strut. My fellow partygoers also loved Graham Tudor's cute, athletic and self-mocking Rocky while Kate Rowley Jones as the deflowered Janet catches the mood precisely in an enjoyable descent from priggish virgin to sultry slut.
Only Nick Bateman - 'Nasty Nick' from TV's Big Brother - and the first in a line of guest Narrators (Christine Hamilton, Rhona Cameron and John Stalker) seems uneasy. Stagecraft is clearly not his forté, and he should try swallowing less of his vowels.
It's also a shame that the quality of O'Brien's lyrics is sometimes lost in the frenzy - Rocky remains at heart a sexy, clever spoof of all those sci-fi and horror flicks of years gone by. But again, such gripes don't really matter. The phenomenon steamrolls all before it. Immaculately dressed in Sue Blane's familiarly transgendered and bizarre costumes, framed by Robin Don's cheerfully cheap art-deco set, and supported by an excellent ensemble, The Rocky Horror Show only seems to get better!
- Stephen Gilchrist (reviewed at Bromley's Churchill Theatre)