“Rocky is a show whose characters, both literally and in the minds of their captive fans, are determined not to die. They meet hardships and struggles with characteristic flair and absurdity, and this performance, despite battling false starts and technical difficulties, was no different.”
Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show is, and always has been, many things to many different people. It is the scourge of homophobic elderly relatives; the drunken, bumbling first date between college students; the burgeoning drag queen’s obligatory first step and the queer academic’s beacon of liberation and fluidity. However, more than anything else it is Richard’s show, and as such his interpretation is if not the chief authority than certainly worthy of note, and his summation of Rocky has always been the same.
The Rocky Horror Show is supposed to be juvenile.
It’s latest iteration, a whirlwind UK tour that has since been extended until the end of 2016, is exactly that. A far cry from the dust-covered locations and Addams Family-esque desaturation of the 1975 film, the minimal set exudes out-and-out camp, with the delightfully garish colour scheme immediately calling into mind both the OTT violence of Golden Age comic books and the accidental comedy of every B-Movie you’ve ever seen. Immediately, O’Brien’s chief inspirations are right there on stage.
Of course, there were hiccups. Norman Pace’s absence from the part of Narrator was deeply felt, with his understudy, clearly unused to the jibes and heckles the role entails, forgetting his lines multiple times and instead attempting to draw the audience in with self-deprecating references to his soap-heavy TV background. Though his charm and handling of the situation was impeccable, and elicited far more laughs than perhaps the normal soliloquy would have, it gave the show an unwelcome sense of unprofessionalism akin to that of a mere Saturday night shadow-cast.
This feeling was heightened when the second half came to an abrupt stop, and some malfunction of the safety curtain ensured it could not continue for some 15 minutes. However, the camaraderie common between all Rocky fans won the day, with the somewhat shambolic interlude becoming a chance to check one’s lipstick, and a joke with, rather than at the expense of, the cast.
Despite even these setbacks the true star quality of the touring cast was undeniable. Liam Tamne’s Frank was a fresh take on an old archetype, sacrificing some of the effortless cool for boyish charm and moments of preening hysteria that better suited the farcical nature of the show. Ben Freeman and Diana Vickers, for their part, did a tremendous job at making the somewhat stiff Brad and Janet if not lovable than at least endearing, whilst Kristian Lavercombe (who at the time of writing has played the role of Riff-Raff almost one thousand times) was assured and effortless in his brilliance.
All in all, it was exactly what you might expect. Decadent, raunchy, and a little messy, with flaws that in any other show would have been a detriment somehow merely adding to the carefully constructed mythos of the production.
After all, Rocky’s appeal has always been a very unique kind of glamour, the kind with a rip in its fishnets and lipstick on its teeth.