A REGULAR visitor to Bath in the 46 years since it was first seen in London’s Royal Court Theatre (Upstairs), the locals have now become so used to seeing members of the audience – men and women – arriving to see The Rocky Horror Show in torn fishnet stockings, mini skirts and full garish makeup that they now do not turn a hair.
When the show first hit Bath, just a few years after its 1973 opening, the response was very different, with many telephone calls to the police complaining about the outlandish behaviour of audience members.
Quite a number of that original band of fans, now mature in age, turned out once again to greet this new production about to set off on yet another world tour. Few of them dressed for the occasion, but many of the latest generation of fans, who weren’t even born when that first tour took place, arrived dressed and made up to the nines, keeping up the traditions set by past audiences.
It was mainly this generation who also joined in the now traditional heckling of the Narrator as he set about his task of leading us through the story of a newly engaged innocent couple seeking shelter from a storm when their car breaks down, only to find themselves in the eerie castle of transvestite Frank ‘n’ Furter. Co-host of Radio 4’s The Now Show Steve Punt’s Narrator would have appreciated rather more of these often outrageous interruptions, but made the most of those thrown at him to raise the comedy level.
The word outrageous can also be applied to Stephen Webb’s Drag Queen portrayal of the mad scientist Frank ‘n’ Furter, especially when it came to his no-holds- barred comic sexual encounters with Janet and Brad. As Janet, former Strictly Come Dancing winner Joanne Clifton showed that she was as adept at putting a big brassy number over , and handling broad comedy as she was on the dance floor.
Apart from the ability to belt out a song in fine style, there was little to remind us that Ben Adams was once the lead singer of the band A1. His bemused Brad, providing an ideal partner for the equally naive Janet.
In the castle, Janet and Brad had to do battle with a rich assortment of overblown characters all paying homage to those wonderfully badly made 1940s horror and science fiction films. The malformed Riff Raff (Kristian Lavercombe) becoming more and more comic the more he tried to be menacing, Laura Harrison following him down the same path as the sexual predator Magenta, Miracle Chance bringing a nice touch of pathos to the comedy as she sacrifices herself for her beloved Frank, and Callum Evens lithe and athletic as the muscle-bound monster Rocky.
A five piece band under the direction of George Carter, perched high above the fast moving action at the back of the stage, produced a volume of sound that indicated that when performing the expertly set and performed ensemble numbers those involved probably had a little help with the vocals from a backing tape.
Whether they did or not it mattered not a jot to the audience who rose as one at the end of the show, young and old alike, to cheer their heroes and join in The Time Warp with as much relish and commitment as those on stage.