Latest Review – The Rocky Horror Show [Opera House, Manchester] [UK Tour]


Opera House, Manchester

Until Saturday 16th January, 2016

It is now over forty years since Richard O’Brien’s juggernaut cult hit first premiered at the Royal Court’s tiny 63-seat Theatre Upstairs back in June 1973, subsequently adapted for the big screen only two years later. However, although the show has become something of a cultural phenomenon over the last four decades – attracting some of the most devoted (and eccentric) musical theatre fans around – I just don’t think the stage show lives up to the hype, and it is significantly outshone by its definitive and superior cinematic incarnation.

Though it has been re-written and re-worked numerous times since the film’s release, the stage show never reaches the level of quality demonstrated in the big screen version. Released in 1975, the The Rocky Horror Picture Show considerably streamlines the near two-hour stage show into a comfortable 100-minutes (of course with some visual padding), cutting a lot of the fat and unnecessary waffle, revising a number of the scenes and generally playing down the grubbier and more taboo elements of the show; fine tuning which the stage show most definitely requires. I also don’t feel the stage show is anywhere near as funny as it thinks it is, and I get the sense that a lot of the audience are just laughing either nervously or because the ‘die hard’ fans around them are and they feel they should join in.

There is however one aspect of the show which irritates more than the others. Now, I am well aware that it has now, for some bizarre reason, become the norm with the show, however the incessant heckling or so called ‘response lines’ (which very few people seem to know and which alienate the majority of the audience) wear incredibly thin after the first couple of instances and ultimately do nothing but interrupt the flow of the show and irritate those around them.

A tongue-in-cheek tribute to the science fiction and horror B movies of the late 1940s through to the early 1970s, the musical pastiche follows the exploits of naive and newly engaged young couple Brad and Janet, who run into tyre trouble during a rainstorm and are forced to seek help in the sinister looking ‘Frankenstein place’, where the master of the castle, the cross-dressing mad scientist, Dr. Frank N. Furter, is about to unveil his latest maniacal creation.

Thankfully the strong ensemble cast make up for any issues with the script and Liam Tamne leads the cast in impressive style with a very charismatic perfomance as Frank, with fine support from Ben Freeman and Diana Vickers as Brad and Janet, the long-serving Kristian Lavercombe (who has now performed the show over 1,000 times) and a standout Charlie Condou as the Narrator. It’s just a shame they have to deal with some very questionable (and at times cringeworthy) material.

Hugh Durrant’s set proves a highlight, simplistically (but effectively) rendered and cleverly framed with a film roll border, further highlighted by Nick Richings’ excellent lighting design. Sound Designer Gareth Owen also deserves special mention for his impressive work.

It’s alway a delight to see a live onstage band for a show of this type and under the direction of Ben Van Tienen, the five-strong rock ensemble certainly do not disappoint, breathing new life into O’Brien’s now iconic Rock ‘N’ Roll score.

Running Time: 1 hour and 55-minutes (approx.), including one 20-minute interval.

Final Performance at the Opera House, Manchester: Saturday 16th January, 2016.

For more information, and to book tickets, please Click Here.

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