With some recent recasting, the touring production of The Rocky Horror Show has returned to Oxford as a Christmas treat before being given a rest for a while. This farcical spoof of horror films of the 1930s and sci-fi low-budget nonsense of the 1950s is still a remarkable treat, and it comes up fresh, and remains a rock’n’roll phenomenon. Director Christopher Luscombe displays a real understanding of the crazy, frivolous non-stop entertainment the piece can provide; but also somehow conveys a strong feeling for the underlying serious iconoclastic purpose of the show. I cannot imagine anyone with an open mind and a taste for camp and kitsch (or at least an ability not to be offended by either) not enjoying it. It is a sexy yet subversive romp!
The cast is uniformly splendid. It is invidious to point them out, yet one must make special mention of Liam Tamne embodying his role as Frank-N-Furter with such explicit delight in all his cross-dressing shenanigans; Dominic Andersen’s striking, sexy and very talented Rocky; Sophie Linder-Lee’s corruptible Janet and Richard Meek’s geeky Brad. They can all sing and dance; they all have good voices (though I wish some of the amplification were a tad more subtle). All of them are not only excellent in the current production, but also clearly have strong talents and real versatility and fine careers ahead of them. Kay Murphy gets the show off to an hilarious start as an usherette at the drive-in horror/sci-fi double bill; and then transmogrifies into a suitably sultry Magenta; Kritian Lavercombe is suitably creepy as Riff Raff, the part originated by Richard O’Brien himself; and Georgia May Foote was startling and memorable as Columbia. The show is sheer, unadulterated, outrageous fun and is not only iconic and iconoclastic but extremely witty, especially if you can pick up the clever references to the schlock-horror and sci-fi movies.
Almost as captivating as the show is the audience itself, a goodly number of whom turned up in suitably skimpy costumes as characters from the show the night I attended. The interaction with this cat-calling, articulate audience was definitely a large part of the fun and the narrators and actors were adept at fielding the cheeky one-liners emanating from the stalls.
This production has been touring successfully for a couple of years. It has been recently refreshed and it is a great treat for anyone who remembers the days of musicals like Hair and even Oh!Calcutta! and who will not be too shocked by the frank look at ambiguous sexuality that is at the core of the play and the skimpy costumes. The Rocky Horror Show is remarkably not at all dated; it wears well; and it is still too often sadly pertinent and relevant in its energetic iconoclasm. It is a noteworthy production and you can catch it at the New Theatre, Oxford, until 31 December, as a kind of raunchy Christmas or New Year Treat for grown-ups with a child-like sense of fun and who will enjoy the satiric approach to low-brow culture. The score is mostly serviceable but at times rises to excellence; the energy from the cast and musicians is startlingly vivid; and at the end you will want to stand up, ovate, and dance!