Stylised sets of celluloid castles and sci-fi spaceships, incredible musical pieces, and an entire theatre full of burly transvestites and undead maids on their feet doing a surprisingly well coordinated rendition of the Time Warp; these are a small selection of the highlights in Nottingham Theatre Royal’s production of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show. Voted the favourite Royal Court Theatre production of all time when it debuted in 1973, the cast and crew in Nottingham have truly done the original justice with their portrayal.
The production begins with an introductory song in front of a closed curtain which sets the scene for the whole musical. The focus on classic science-fiction is shown from the outset with the show seamlessly and deliberately jumping from trope to trope as the story bounds forward. The curtain opens on our ‘heroes’, Brad and Janet (Ben Freeman and Diana Vickers), professing their love for one another, shortly before their tyre springs a leak. Their questionable decision to ask if they might get help from the residents of a sinister, storm covered castle takes them on an adventure of debauchery, sensuality and seduction, all at the hands of the morally and sexually ambiguous Doctor Frank-N-Furter (Liam Tamne).
Tamne’s work in this play is stunning. Initially showing us Frank-N-Furter as the obvious villain by throwing himself around the stage and onto the other cast members, he gives the perfect depiction of the hilarious “transvestite from Transylvania”, who cares only about having his own brand of fun at the expense of everyone else. Throughout the play, the actor undergoes a subtle transition into a relatable character, so that by the end, the audience has almost forgotten about the prim and proper Brad and Janet as they sing and dance along with Frank.
“Never before have I been to a theatre production where the whole crowd has risen to their feet”
The part of this production that stood out above the scenery, the music and the wonderfully physical humour was undoubtedly the audience participation. When the narrator (ad-libbed expertly by Steve Punt) walked on stage, it felt like I was transported to an adult themed pantomime, with every one of his sentences finished by shouts from the audience –some expected and some not. Never before have I been to a theatre production where the whole crowd has risen to their feet and danced to vintage pop songs whilst roaring with laughter; the atmosphere in the stalls added an aspect to the musical that you truly could not find elsewhere. The Rocky Horror Show’s method of literally making the audience a part of the act is the most fantastic way of making the viewer care for what’s happening on the stage.
The Rocky Horror Show is more than a musical; it is a unique, involving experience which I thoroughly recommend everyone to enjoy. It’s sexually charged, brutally funny, and if you look hard enough you might even find a message about society’s attitude towards the LGBT community. One of the best productions I have ever seen; by the end I was wishing it would go on all night.
The Rocky Horror Show is showing at Theatre Royal until Saturday 30th April. To book tickets, see here.