Presented by the Ambassador Theatre Group and John Frost
Reviewed 21 March 2014
The 40th anniversary production of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show is a loud, fast celebration of all things camp, featuring the writer himself as The Narrator exclusively for the Adelaide season.
The rapture of O’Brien’s presence on stage is only exceeded by the response for television and film star Craig McLachlan as the cheesiest, campest, over-the-top transvestite this side of the time(warp)line.
The Rocky Horror Show debuted in Australia in 1974, a year after its original London production opened. It wasn’t until the 1975 film version, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, that it became a worldwide cult hit however. Weekly midnight cinema screenings were often the rage through the 1980s and screenings continue to be popular today.
The show features much-loved songs such as Sweet Transvestite, Touch-a Touch-a Me and the party hit, Time Warp which still gets people up and dancing at parties everywhere.
The plot is a loving nod to the B-grade, schlock horror science fiction films of the mid-20th century. Wholesome couple Brad and Janet set off to visit tutor and friend Dr Scott to announce their engagement but are forced to seek help at an isolated mansion when their car gets a flat tire. Inside, a collection of bizarre characters have gathered for the culmination of Dr Frank N Furter’s ultimate experiment, to create life itself. His creature, Rocky, is a muscleman born for pleasure but in the course of one night, both creature and creator release the inner truth of all the mansion’s occupants.
Where the show fails, other than Dave Skelton’s exceptional band drowning out the lyrics occasionally, is in the casting of such beautiful people. Their talent alone makes up for it, but The Rocky Horror Show should be a parade of people who don’t fit in: Brad and Janet are nerds; the Transylvanian party-goers are freaks; Frank N Furter is a transvestite; his servant, Riff Raff, is a hunchback; Dr Scott is in a wheelchair; Eddie is deformed. Every character is outside the ‘norm’. Only the creature Rocky is perfection personified, yet in this cast Rocky is physically average compared to the other males on stage. That’s no slight on his looks or physique, but despite good makeup, the physical casting of the show caters to modern marketing rather than the true intent of the show.
That said, Richard O’Brien himself proclaimed Craig McLachlan as one of the best Frank N Furters he’s seen and rightly so. McLachlan steals every scene and breaks the fourth wall regularly to ham it up and toy with the audience. He is faultless in look, voice, comic timing and appeal. This is the second time McLachlan has played Frank N Furter on stage and without doubt, he has become the benchmark for future characterisations.
Tim Maddren and Christie Whelan Browne are stellar as Brad and Janet, as are Kristian Lavercombe, Ashlea Pyke and Erika Heynatz as servants Riff Raff, Columbia and Magenta respectively. Nicholas Christo does a fine job in the dual role of Dr Scott and failed experiment Eddie, while Brendan Irving is in fine form (quite literally) as the title creature, Rocky.
For those sitting on the far left of the auditorium, sight lights can be poor, with a few minor bits of action blocked by Hugh Durrant’s cartoonish but otherwise-effective curved set. Director Christopher Luscombe keeps the action speeding along so fast that any out-of-sight action is only short lived. Nathan M Wright’s delightfully quirky choreography also keeps the actors moving so that disrupted sightlines are never an enduring problem.
All hail Darren Ware’s wigs, which almost outshine Sue Blane’s excellent costume design.
From the brief opening overture, which had the audience bopping in their seats, to the standing ovation that had almost 2,000 people doing the Time Warp, The Rocky Horror Show lives up to expectation, taking you on a strange journey that is as much fond memory as it is a fresh new revival of an enduring theatrical classic.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
When: 21 March – 13 April 2014
Where: Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Tickets: $59.90 – $99.90
Bookings: Book at BASS online or phone 131 246