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Brighton Year-Round 2023

Rocky Horror Show

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

Genre: Cabaret, Comedic, LGBTQ+ Theatre, Live Music, 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 Greg Arrowsmith and Music Director Charles Inglies

Associate Costume Designer Christopher Porter, Wigs & Make-up Supervisor Darren Ware, Associate Choreographer and Assistant Director Andrew Ahern, Associate Sound Designer Russell Godwin, Production Managers Simon Gooding and Matt Jones for SGPM,

Original Casting Director Stuart Burt CDG, Executive Producers Rocky Horror Company, Meryl Faiers, Producers Daniel Brodie and Matt Parritt, General Manager Jeffrey Brady.

Till January 7th.



One eternal draw of the Rocky Horror Show is just what topical jokes the narrator’s going to pull out, and just how badly the impromptu ad-libs from the audience can match him. For a start that narrator’s Philip Franks. It also happens it’s the most lucid-voiced Rocky I’ve seen  – which is frankly a joy – and on balance strongest cast for a long time. Two great reasons to return, or adventure for your first awakening on Planet Transexual.

When you see so much exposed flesh in early January you’d 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? It’s the same production we saw in November-December 2021, but grown. Again 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 three hours away from food and heating for transvestite alien sex for three hours… well two. And the others? Nah! You’re going to have to truffle them out for yourself. But there’s Princely 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.

Richard Meek proves an ideally appealing Brad, preppy and vulnerable, awoken and scared. Haley Flaherty’s again 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 returning as Frank N Furter that seducer with a rocket-shaped secret comes in on a red-edged black outfit.  Costume Designer Sue Blane improves on her 2021 little black number for him  – elsewhere she serves everyone else just as dazzlingly as she did then. And Webb too effortlessly surpasses his 2021 performance where a slightly underwhelming first-half warmed into a sexily throbbing Furter in Act Two. Now his pathos as well as cruelty blaze from his get-up get-go; Webb gets his teeth into Furter’s trigger personality.

Darcy Finden – previously a Phantom – really needs singing 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 again makes a blissful Usherette with a real Soubrette voice and her great strength is stratospheric singing. This time though the sound design’s adjusted and you can hear every word. 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 as ever suitably horrid as Riff Raff, moving like a crab, furtive to Furter, with an impressive presence never jaded after 2,000 performances. Joe Allen again 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, and this time he doesn’t back-flip but affects us more. A Rocky who can really act and sing. The rest of the Phantoms acquit themselves with the right wild abandon. Phantoms Reece Budin (returning), Fionan O’Carroll and Jessica Sole, with Tyler Dee Nurden and Nathan Shaw as Swing and Stefana Du Toit also returning as Swing and Dance Captain.

Set Designer Hugh Durrant has made swift work of the opening outside with his 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 Greg Arrowsmith and Music Director Charles Inglies.

This is – as it has to be – a first-class revival. The strength of this cast led with a special wit by Franks makes it absolutely worth seeing however many times you have. Otherwise, just see it!