A few months ago I attended a cinema screening of the cult classic musical movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This production was screened across all Cineworld venues and due to the fact that I am a Cineworld unlimited member I had the ticket for fifty percent off! For any of you who are interested, you can get your own Cineworld membership for just £10 which includes unlimited cinema screenings, random gifts, money off cinema snacks/drinks and early release invites! If you are wanting to set up your own account you can use my unique referral code RAF-41UF-82LQ-14EX-70BM and we will both receive a totally free month added to both our subscriptions! The show was headlined by British television present and strictly winner Ore Oduba and you can hear my full thoughts on his and the rest of the cast’s performance at https://rhysreviews.com/2021/10/29/rocky-horror-cinema-screening-review/. While the filmed performance was great the one thing that people enjoy most about the Rocky Horror show is the audience and atmosphere it brings with it where the show goes! If you have never experienced a live performance of this musical then you are guaranteed to see people on fancy dress (in fact if you are not in costume then you actually look strange!), constant singing and dancing throughout and vulgar/hilarious heckles from the audience that the performers will often embed into the show itself. There is nothing on this planet even remotely similar to the experience of a live production so if you have never been seen the musical before then it is a must! The cast of the cinema screening was exactly the same cast as the live performance but due to the former being a screen with a small audience it was almost a teaser of the full experience you will get at the musical!
Obviously the musical is based on the camp cult classic movie which stared the incredible Tim Curry alongside artists such as Meatloaf (who sadly lost his life just under a month ago), Richard O’Brien, Susan Sarandon and Christopher biggins! In case you haven’t watched the 1975 movie, it follows the lives of the newly engaged couple Janet Weiss and Brad Majors who end up needing to seek refuge in a rather gothic castle. The owner of the castle is the eccentric, transvestite Frank N Furter who creates himself a monster to satisfy his bassist urges. However, Frank manages to also slither his way into both Brad and Janet’s bedroom which leads to his creature also experiencing the love of the latter. Towards the end of the story, the once-loyal brother and sister alien duo of Riff-Raff and Magenta turn on their master and leave him to return to their distant planet! What is clever about the musical version of this show is the fact that it is very aware that it is a musical and treats the main narrative as almost a movie in its own right. The main sections of the show are sandwiched with an almost introduction from an usherette (played in this show by the wonderfully talented Suzie Mcadam) who literally pulls back the curtain to the main narratives. Suzie did an excellent job and introduce the sexiness and campiness of the show which is exactly what this role was intended for!
Throughout the story, there are breakpoints where a narrator comes out to overview what is happening and drop subtle hints as to what will happen next. This is when the majority of the audience heckles occur and I have to say if I was in the shoes of Philip Franks (who played the narrator for this show) I would have no idea how to respond. There a shouts about sexual acts, his career, popular culture etc and Phillip is able to quickly and hilarious incorporate this into his monologues. Having seen the show five times you would assume that it would take a lot for me to be surprised but there are constantly new heckles (with the classic ones still making me laugh) and I would say that Phillip is one of the most hilarious narrators I have ever seen! You should go into the Rocky horror showing expecting to hear some rather vulgar things being shouted at full volume, meaning it is absolutely not suitable for a young audience, but I do think that there is a point where this becomes a bit extreme. We went to see the final night of the Cardiff shows and there were many, what I assume to be, drunk people who were shouting over actor lines, standing up at random points of the show thus blocking the view of the people behind them, heckles that were neither clever nor hilarious and often at inappropriate times in the show and just general drunk antics which did hinder many people’s enjoyment of the show. I know it is not the performers nor the venue fault that people take these interactive elements way too far but it is something that the audience needs to be aware of especially if you are booking closing night tickets. Every viewing of the musical is different from the last which is mainly down to the creativity and quick wit of the narrator and Phillip was managed to work in modern reference to Boris Johnson’s recent issues, John Barrowman and COVID related issues into his retorts which had the audience in historical throughout!
It is clear that Kristen Lavercombe (who has become synonyms with the role of Riff Raff after playing him in pretty much every production I have ever seen!) has got this role down to a fine art! This character is an alien who is living under the control of Frank and so being able to play up the absurdity of this while keeping the camp undertones must be very difficult but Kristin seems to excel in this role. The moments later in the show where we see a much more serious and intense side of this character who also perfectly performed which is a credit to Kristian’s genius! Alongside his alien sister Magenta played by Darcy Finden, these two perform what is probably the most well-known song from the show ‘the time warp!’ This iconic song has every member of the audience up on their feet singing and dancing alongside to the step by step instructions. The energy of the performers is so infectious that it fills up every person in the theatre which encourages them to sing and dance as if no one is watching! The other main song that will have every person singing along is sweet transvestite which is sung by the evil Dr Frank N Furter played by the amazing Stephen Webb. This portrayal of Frank was much more focused on the vocal side of the character with Stephen clearly by an incredibly talented vocalist. His rendition of sweet transvestite was crammed full of pure camp but also teased at his vocal abilities so by the time the heartfelt ‘I’m going home’ we knew it was going to be an insane performance!
Alongside Ore Oduba as Brad, we have with finance Janet who was played by Haley Flaherty who really highlighted the innocence of the character towards the earlier stages of the show. This clashes beautifully with the sexy and absurd characters with find in the castle and the moment we see her perform the sensual ‘Touch-A-Touch-A-Touch-A-Touch Me’ opposite Callum Evans (as Rocky) we saw the effects that the experience had had on this character. While being cast as Frank in a production of this show is my dream role, if I ever have the chance to perform this song in a gender-flipped version of this number then that would be a dream come true also! During the cinema review, I discussed how the creative decision to have Rocky portrayed as a young child was a rather strange choice so when in this production it was presented more as a development throughout the show, that mirrors Janet’s journey, it made a lot more sense. This creature is born during the story and then grows to experience lust and some very traumatic events so he would quickly develop! As always the highlight of the end of the show is the mega mix which again encourages everyone to get up on their feet and to join in with the two most iconic numbers in the show which is always great fun!
Overall, Rocky horror remains to be one of the sexiest and campest experiences are known to man and continue to be a highlight of the year for us at Rhys Reviews! The fact that the show has been to Cardiff so many times and it always sells out with hordes of dressed-up fans flooding to the theatre just shows how loved this production is! I would rate this musical 5 out of 5 stars!