REVIEW: Rocky Horror Show – the post lockdown party we all need

Rocky Horror Show World Tour – Image by David Freeman

Venue: Milton Keynes Theatre

Performance Date: 03 August 2021

Reviewer: Gemma Fincher

Star Rating: ★★★★

You don’t need to tell anyone associated with the theatre what a challenging 18 months it’s been. Finally, after months of uncertainty, Milton Keynes Theatre has flung open its doors to audiences chomping at the bit to get back to some semblance of normality. What a banger to kick off with! Still packing out theatres in its 48th year, Richard O’Brien’s iconic cult classic musical, The Rocky Horror Show struts back to MK bringing with it a pumped-up party atmosphere.

The plot centres around the newly engaged, all-American couple Brad and Janet, who decide to embark on a road trip to visit their former college professor. Suffering a flat tyre, they are forced to seek refuge at a nearby castle, where they encounter the flamboyant scientist Doctor Frank N Furter. Brad and Janet are set for a night they will never forget, played out against a backdrop of a toe-tapping soundtrack, an innuendo-laden script, and outrageously risqué costumes. Audience participation is actively encouraged, and thankfully the MK audience bought the heckling in abundance and were on top form throughout.

Broadcaster and TV presenter Ore Oduba seemed an odd casting for the role of the geeky Brad Majors however he holds his own in the multi-talented cast. Oduba successfully embodies the character of Brad and delivers a lovely solo performance of Once in a While. His chemistry with Haley Flaherty as Janet is believable and they complement each other in droves. Flaherty’s rendition of Janet’s famous solo number Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me is cheeky and flirty, further enhanced by some fabulous comic timing where she plays off super swing Danny Knott’s buff and athletic Rocky.

Rocky Horror old hand Philip Franks returns to the role of The Narrator and as ever is a revelation. Readily prepared for the heckling that was sure to come his way, he was equipped with some fast comebacks, many of which were unusually topical (Matt Hancock had a rough night).

Kristian Lavercombe has reprised his role as Riff Raff for the tour having chalked up over 1800 performances in the musical. It is easy to see why he has been so successful in his portrayal – his performance is so finely honed, yet somehow slightly different in every performance. Lavercombe provides arguably the most comedic interludes in the show with his nuanced looks and movement. The iconic Timewarp is where he truly comes into his own, complemented beautifully by Suzie McAdam as Magenta.

Stephen Webb once again slips into Frank N Furter’s basque and platform heels. Webb has clearly relaxed into the role and wastes no time in showcasing his incredibly strong vocals, never more so than when he belts out Frank’s signature tune Sweet Transvestite. Webb brings unusual masculinity to the normally flamboyant, camp, and at times effeminate Frank.

Huge kudos must also be given to MK Theatre for their COVID precautions, communications, and excellent management. With audience participation such a key ingredient, it was thrilling to see the theatre nearing capacity. As a result, the performances were exuberant, the energy levels off the charts, and the heckling first class. After 48 years, Rocky Horror has never been more popular, and if tonight is anything to go by, that popularity won’t be waning any time soon. Rocky Horror is the post lockdown party that we all need.

Runs Until: 7 August 2021

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