Theatre review - The Rocky Horror Show, Manchester Opera House
PUBLISHED: 13:43 14 January 2019 | UPDATED: 13:43 14 January 2019
Photo by David Freeman
You must, must go to The Rocky Horror Show at Manchester Opera House this month, it’s just brilliant.
I admit, this isn’t the first time I have seen The Rocky Horror show live on stage in Manchester, but this time I was rather more excited than the first as I knew what was coming – an evening of naughtiness-fuelled laughter, stand-up-and-dance and the most hilarious audience participation.
If you don’t know it, here’s a quick summary (though trust me, this isn’t easy!) Innocent 1950’s American couple Brad and Janet have just become engaged and head out to visit Brad’s favourite teacher on a dark and stormy night when, oh no, their car gets a flat tyre. Having just passed a castle, they decide to head there to use the telephone. At this point, it all goes a bit sideways – a step to the left, you might say. The castle’s master, Frank N Furter, is a corset-and-stockings clad muscular chap, about to reach the pinnacle of his experimentation on creating the perfect male specimen. He sets about the seduction of both Brad and Janet with gleeful abandon and magnificent results…and the rest is simply too complicated to get into! It’s not supposed to make sense, I think, really. It’s simply a vehicle for some outrageous humour, memorable songs and dances. Suffice to say, it’s utterly bonkers and equally brilliant – but only in the right hands.
And oh, is this cast the right hands! Frank N Furter is played with camp comic genius by Stephen Webb, with a physicality that ensures all eyes are drawn to him whenever he’s on stage. Luckily, the rest of the cast are too good to be outshone.
Brad and Janet are played by Ben Adams and Joanne Clifton, last seen together in the UK tour of Flashdance. There’s no doubting the skillset of these two. Every move is perfectly placed, every note spot on. They take their clean-cut, American innocents down a twisting path of desire and discovery without once losing their balance.
This show has a narrator – not a bad idea when the plot is so thin. In Manchester the role has been taken by Beverley Callard, who does an excellent job at keeping the audience up to speed and at managing the frequent interjections from the other side of the footlights. Not a question is asked that is not answered by some wit from the stalls, often with crude humour. I don’t know how much help she was given, but she deals with shout outs with humour and style. Also worthy of mention is Miracle Chance, who delivers a magnificent Columbia – her ‘poison’ scene is utterly brilliant; how she has the energy to do that night after night I have no idea. And we can’t not mention the amazing Callum Evans, who plays Rocky, the pinnacle of male gorgeousness, as created by Frank N Furter. Apart from an astonishing physique (trust me ladies, you don’t see one of those every day) he flick flacks around the stage like he’s on invisible strings and has springs for limbs. And he acts, sings and dances too. Talk about triple threat.
The audience participation is at levels you won’t find in any other show. Few performances can have a crowd who haven’t been at least once before. This is shown not only in the eyebrow raising number of men in stockings, but in the perfect timing at one liners are called out to the actors, who respond with perfect timing. Then there’s the Time Warp of course – a dance we all know, even if some might deny it.
I can’t think of a better way to pass a chilly evening in Manchester, or indeed any other city, than to spend it singing, laughing and cheering along to a show that unites the whole theatre, whichever side of the stage they’re on.
The Rocky Horror Show plays at Manchester Opera House until 26 January.