REVIEW: The Rocky Horror Show, New Wimbledon Theatre ✭✭✭✭

The Rocky Horror Show UK Tour

The Rocky Horror Show
Wimbledon Theatre
29th February 2016
4 Stars
Buy Tickets For The UK Tour

The Rocky Horror  Show is a musical theatre experience like no other. Since it opened at the tiny upstairs theatre of the Royal Court in 1973, it has spawned a film, numerous worldwide transfers and its own subculture and fan community.

For those who have not attended the show before, audience members frequently dress up as the main characters and are encouraged to shout out quips and innuendos, as well as getting up to dance during the show’s many musical numbers. As a result, Wimbledon Theatre was all fishnets and drag artists, with one of the most remarkable atmospheres I’ve ever encountered.

The Rocky Horror Show Uk Tour

The story follows the path of many a horror film; after Janet accepts Brad’s marriage proposal, the happy couple then manage to get lost in the rain. They stumble upon the castle of transvestite Dr. Frank-N-Furter. He unveils his creation, a young man named Rocky Horror, who fears the doctor and rejects his sexual advances. Brad and Janet get lost in the doctor’s weird world, whilst some of his associates try their best to take over the castle.

The plot is clearly nonsensical (it makes even less sense when you are watching it on stage), but in many ways the plot and even the performance is secondary. You get the impression that the audience could watch the most dreadful production of all time and it would not matter a jot, such is their determination to have a good time.

The score is a pastiche of old horror B-movies and there were some entertaining tunes and audience interaction, notably during the famous Time Warp. There was an entertaining modern twist during the song There’s a Light, when audience members used their phone lights to create atmosphere, totally unprompted.

Being at the show for the first time is a bit like being in a cult when nobody has given you the holy book. Everybody knows the words, the dance moves and the in-jokes. Even Steve Punt’s narrator joked at the start ‘I don’t want to spoil the show for the two or three of you who haven’t seen the show before’. You either embrace it or have a bemusing evening.

The Rocky Horror Show Uk Tour

I opted for the former and had a lot of fun, helped by an entertaining cast containing a few famous faces. Diana Vickers (former X Factor) and Ben Freeman (ex Emmerdale) took on the roles of Janet and Brad, and luckily neither felt like stunt casting.

I was lukewarm about seeing Vickers since what I thought was a limited acting performance during the straight play The Duck House a few years ago. However, musical theatre is clearly much more her forte, she was an enjoyably naïve Janet, alongside Freeman’s geeky Brad. Freeman was so convincing in the role and has such a magnificent singing voice that I didn’t notice it was him until after the show.

Amongst a highly talented ensemble, understudy Lauren Ingram as Columbia was a standout performer. I was looking forward to seeing Sophie Linder-Lee in the role (about as far removed from her last character of Glinda as you could get), but Ingram was a remarkable replacement in what may have been her first time on stage in the role. Funny, likeable and a wonderful singer, it was one of the best understudy performance I’ve seen.

The Rocky Horror Show Uk Tour

Kristian Lavercombe has apparently played the role of Riff-Raff over 1,000 times globally so it is no surprise that he fits the role like a glove. However, Richard Meek’s Eddie/Dr Scott was a touch quiet at times and hard to make out over Ben Van Tienen’s wonderful band.

Narrator Steve Punt kept the show flowing nicely, with some smart topical gags and improvised quips. Choreographer Nathan Wright set the right tone with some weird and wacky routines, whilst Nick Riching’s lighting is both impressive and dramatic.

Rocky Horror is a show greatly lacking in terms of plot and focus; I suspect if I had seen it before it attained cult status I may have hated it. However, these days this show is so much more than what’s on stage, and has a theatrical experience, it is something that should not be missed.


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