A rainy Monday in February didn’t deter Cardiff’s Transylvanians from dressing up in their best fishnets and corsets. Yes, The Rocky Horror Show is back in town at the New Theatre for the Welsh leg of its UK live tour.
You might wonder what more can be said about this institution – surely everyone old and interested enough has seen it by now. For my part, it still feels surprising when queer adults are seeing it for the first time (full disclosure: this was my seventh).
Rocky Horror is the age-old story of a mad transvestite scientist in his remote castle making a muscled, blond “Frankenstein’s creation”. Enter the all-American Brad and Janet, thrown in amongst some gender-bending bonkersness: somewhere between an adult panto and rock gig, and utterly entertaining.
You might think Frank’N’Furter is the star of The Rocky Horror Show, but you’d be wrong. Phillip Franks has played the Narrator for the last few tours and he has never been better, or more hilarious – throwing shade at Boris Johnson, interacting with the audience, chucking out a lateral flow-based drag queen joke and even referencing Cardiff’s iconic Splott. The audience loved him: if you know Franks as Charlie from early 90s comedy The Darling Buds Of May, this is an assuredly different assignment. Another returning player, Haley Flaherty, is Janet again, her voice beautiful – and as soon as Suzie McAdam’s (Magenta) Usherette comes on to the stage at the beginning, we know we’re in safe hands.
By this point, meanwhile Kristian Lavercombe is the heart of Rocky Horror. The Welsh-born, New Zealand-raised actor has played Riff Raff for over 1,800 performances, and even after all those tours and productions is still clearly having fun. This must be one of the most fun shows to be in, something reflected from an audience member’s perspective.
As someone who’s not a fan of the Strictly-to-theatre line of celebrity career, I am actually happy so say Ore Oduba’s Brad is impressively, comically nerdy – and as he gets a solo in Once In A While, his voice is also impressive. Speaking of solo numbers, Stephen Webb’s I’m Going Home was a literal showstopper, the applause deservedly going on for a bit. While not my favourite of the six Franks I’ve seen, he’s definitely up there; Webb puts his own spin on the role, something every actor playing the part should do. And he definitely looked the part – those legs! – if your Frank’N’Furter is sexy then that’s half the battle.
Additionally, there seems to be new audience call-outs since last time I saw it, and the musicians, situated above the stage, are fabulous as always. If this was a Monday audience, the Friday and Saturday shows are going to take the roof off. If you want to make your weeknight feel like a weekend, get Rocky Horror tickets before its UK tour leaves Cardiff this week – you’ll want to go dance in Mary’s once it’s over.
New Theatre, Cardiff, Mon 7 Feb
The Rocky Horror Show runs until Sat 12 Feb. Tickets: £25-£50. Info: here
words CHRIS WILLIAMS
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