FringeReview UK 2018
Christopher Luscombe directs the new tour of Rocky Horror Show, lit by Nick Richings. Hugh Durrant’s has redesigned the set: a celluloid film motif. Sue Blane’s camp 70s’s is as much in evidence as ever. Nathan M Wright’s choreography suggests the same bignesss. George Carter’s band works through Gareth Owens’ sound design to produce punchy yet lucid music and vocals. Till January 5th 2019.
It’s the Rocky Horror to see. Christopher Luscombe’s precision and panache make something new of Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show. Hugh Durrant’s redesigned set: a celluloid film motif of confinement and release as everything’s imprisoned in a circular reverse-doors affair of slab white lab and dodo-mounted Victorian-club-on-acid in russets and black, as spaceship-lab and twisted hunting-lodge, as Brad supposes, alternate.
Nick Richings’ lighting too beautifully pinpoints on Frank N Furter’s face, or adds lustre to the dry ice smoke swirl. Luscombe’s tight clean production nails everything: wackiness like fashion needs precise slashings.
Sue Blane’s reverse corsetry and interstellar camp 70s’s is as much in evidence as ever. With smoke effects and a reach suggesting a far larger production, this one plays large theatres a far cry form the Royal Court Upstairs where it improbably began back in 1973. Nathan M Wright’s choreography suggests the same bignesss whilst making pragmatic use of touring stages. And he sports an ace: Rocky himself.
Yet courtesy of a particularly balletic cast, this one explodes with more energy than I’ve ever seen in this show, particularly featuring Callum Evans’ cartwheeling Rocky, a miracle of circus acrobatics and rippling muscle. You can immediately see why the deflowered Janet deflowers him. George Carter’s band works through Gareth Owens’ sound design to produce punchy – but here’s the miracle – crystal-clear vocals Nothing drowns the cast’s excellent diction. For the first time we can hear the words. Even though the cast sing with habitual gusto – and a clean vocal gleam.
Laura Harrison relishes her ingénue Usherette switching to Magenta the vamp later, as we’re transported behind the spangly curtains. The opening’s all cardboard cut-outs, but that changes: it’s as if reality if fantasy and visa-versa.
Ben Adams’ Brad is less wimpy and less bland than he often is, comically blindsided with his own sexuality, and equally rubs up against Joanne Clifton’s joyous Janet, someone who thrills to any balletic excuse and finds similar whoops in sexual liberation. Clifton starts so coyly too; she’s long proved she’s a fine singer and actor, conveying warmth, sexiness and vulnerability to Janet.
Dom Joly’s Narrator is rather Olympian, calmly turning the pages as audience cues and even improvs turn no hairs at all. Even when tyres become blow-jobs and… guess you the rest as Marlowe once said.
Kristian Lavercombe’s Riff Raff is now pretty definitive. He’s played the role 1400 times and his leer and side-hunched movements are sovereign, as is his burring voice. In this Frankenstein update everything’s inverted so you don’t see where the power lies. There are hints though. His sister – Harrison’s Magenta – heads up the phantoms (Reece Budin, Shelby Farmer, Katie Monks, Jake Small) in Wright’s classic dance-moves.
Miracle Chance’s kooky but slinky Columbia –m the girl who loves too much – is given a demented shimmy of her own that lasts well over a minute in wright’s routine and brings the house down in an unexpected place. Chance burlesques her stratospheric voice too. Spurned by the main an, she chooses Ross Chisari’s Eddie, a brief star turn for a man who returns as the wheel-chaired Dr Scott with a Mein Kampf look and a Dr Strangelove right-arm salute.
Its Stephen Webb as Frank N Furter of course who centres the show’s energy and provides, here, moments of pathos towards the end. And a visible relish for fun too. The singing and ensemble are outstanding and Furter’s got a ready instrument to play with as it were. What makes Webb’s Furter so fertile is not simply his striking resemblance to originator Tim Curry. It’s a commanding voice a larger than life-and-death presence and a capacity to move – and move. The final numbers bear a pathos and valedictory quality I don’t remember seeing before.
Unique surely to this production is Callum Evan’s somersaulting Rocky. We see what Janet does with him though this being imminently the planet Transsexual he can be persuaded. He puts the Rocky into Rocky Horror, a creation and creature of jaw-dropping musculature so stunning and so acrobatic you begin to wonder if he hasn’t dropped out of a test tube.
There have been many fine Rocky Horrors, but this must be the tightest and brightest of recent years with unique features. Even if you’ve seen The Rocky Horror Show several times, do see this; and you have plenty of time to think about it. Even so, it was packed…