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Brighton Year-Round 2021

Rocky Horror Show

Howard Panter for Trafalgar Theatre Productions, Mallory Factor for Hill Street Productions and Rupert Gavin

Genre: Comedy, Costume, Mainstream Theatre, Musical Theatre, Theatre

Venue: Theatre Royal, Brighton


Low Down

Directed by Christopher Luscombe, Set Designer Hugh Durrant, Costume Designer Sue Blane, Choreographer Nathan M Wright, Lighting Design Nick Richings, Sound Design Gareth Owen, Musical Arrangements Richard Hartley, Music Supervisor and Director Greg Arrowsmith, Casting Director Stuart Burt CDG, Associate Costume Designer Christopher Porter, Wigs & Make-up Supervisor Darren Hare, Associate Director and Assistant Director Andrew Ahern, Associate Sound Designer Russell brown, Production Managers Simon Gooding and Matt Jones for SGPM, Executive Producers Rocky Horror Company, Meryl Faiers, Producers Daniel Brodie and Matt Parritt, General Manager Jeffrey Brady. Till December 4th.


When you see so much exposed flesh on the coldest night of the year you can guess where you are.

But where we’ve come from? That actor who said he was leaving Superstar to write a play (‘yeah yeah’) and got it put on at the Royal Court Upstairs in 1973, then as now renowned for breaking blood vessels in old critics’ cheeks. So Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show launched close to Terry Johnson’s ‘typical Court play where a zoo gets eaten’ as Johnson put it, before being rescued by the unclassifiable anarch Ken Campbell, who you feel might just have written this if O’Brien hadn’t.

And this time-warp again at the Theatre Royal Brighton? Directed by Christopher Luscombe you’re going to get a clean pair of heels on some really dirty awakenings, and it helps too rich-voiced actor/director Philip Franks is one of those Narrators who acts so superbly you even let Peppa Pig and all the other government jokes fly, as it were. Let’s see. Nah! You’re going to have to truffle them out for yourself. But there’s reasons Franks fears for his knighthood. It really is a sovereign performance and however much the audience throw back the time-warped refrains Franks has minted ones ready, often with a minister impaled on a pitchfork.

Ore Oduba proves he’s got more than dancing magic as he sings and makes a first-class Brad, preppy and vulnerable, awoken and scared. Haley Flaherty’s a superb Janet, with that high voice between Soubrette and Proms Queen beautifully managed. She manages the awakening too especially when she gets hot for Rocky. But we’re um coming to that.

Stephen Webb as Frank N Furter that seducer with a rocket-shaped secret comes in on an all-black, slightly less exciting costume than usual from Costume Designer Sue Blane who serves everyone else so dazzlingly. Webb himself warms up into a sexily throbbing Furter in Act Two when his pathos as well as cruelty are fully on show and Webb gets his teeth into Furter’s trigger personality.

Lauren Ingram really needs singling out for special praise as Columbia, the forlorn woman already discarded by the ungrateful Furter. Her comic brilliance and sustained farcical scena towards the end is screamingly then heartbreakingly funny.

Suzie McAdam makes a blissful Usherette with a real Soubrette voice and her great strength is stratospheric singing. As sultry Magenta, beautifully vamped, she breaks into the vertiginous coloratura runs of the ‘Queen of the Night’ aria from Mozart’s Magic Flute. You can tell she can do that in an opera house.

Kristian Lavercome is suitably horrid as Riff Raff, moving like a crab, furtive to Furter, with an impressive presence. Joe Allen doubles as the short-lived splendid Eddie exploding onto the scene before he’s sort of exploded. As Dr Scott he manages the sleazy transition from upright U.S. scientist to someone from a less savoury background, but what else is new in dodgily recruited postwar America? And of course  he has revelations beyond those.

We’ve had gymnast Rockys before, but the beautifully rippling Ben Westhead is rather more interesting. A Rocky who can really act and sing. The rest of the Phantoms acquit themselves with the right wild abandon. Reece Budin, Darcy Finden, Jordan Fox, Rachel Grundy, with Danny Knott as Swing and Stefana Du Toit as Swing and Dance Captain. 

Set Designer Hugh Durrant has made swift work of the opening outside with its sliding cartoons, a magnificent sarcophagi interior with its lab oppo with 1950s sci-fi retro-fits all old levers and brains, TV monitors (well a bit 70s that) all cast into that dream of what we grew up with before Thunderbirds. Fine effects too and the many-splendoured lighting design of Nick Richings is well to live or die for.

Choreographer Nathan M Wright has people dance miracles round this stage. Gareth Owen’s sound design is always going to sound big, and if you’re in the stalls you’ll be blown off your feet. But it’s the musical arrangements of Richard Hartley that fit here so sharply, realised by Music Supervisor and Director Greg Arrowsmith.

This is – as it has to be – a first-class revival, with one or two things taking a while to settle (but they do). It flew by. The strength of many of this cast led with a special wit by Franks makes it absolutely worth seeing however many times you have. Otherwise, just see it!