THE PLAYHOUSE, Greenside Place
* * *
It’s a pity, because if ever there was a musical with darkness at its heart it is Richard O’Brien’s cult classic, which charts the moral decline of Brad Majors and Janet Weiss at hands of evil transvestite scientist Dr Frank N Furter. Instead, we have a fun, frothy spectacle that fizzes along at a break-neck pace - the first act being just shy of 45 minutes.
Yet still the press night audience loved it, roaring approval and, tentatively, daring to shout the show’s now infamous rejoinders. Enter Philip Franks as The Narrator, the butt of the abuse.
Up there with the great Narrators of years gone by, actors such as Peter Thorne, Jonathan Adams and O’Brien himself, Franks is blisteringly good.
Tempting and teasing, with expertly waspish timing he pauses and prods before pouncing on those brave or stupid enough to engage with him.
In doing so he reduces the audience to gasps of laughter with a series of deliciously brutal barbs.
Franks understands the tradition of audience participation that keeps the show alive and thus ensures this production belongs to him.
Elsewhere, characterisation is sacrificed in the name of tight choreography.
The ‘newborn’ Rocky, an acrobatic Callum Evans, arrives in the world an all singing and dancing creation lacking any sense of bewilderment.
Magenta is reduced to little more than a background ghoul, Columbia fares a slightly better. Dr Scott/Eddie fails to make any impact at all.
James Darch and Joanne Clifton are likeable if untaxed as Brad and Janet while Kristian Lavercombe’s Riff Raff is never sinister and carries little threat.
As Frank N Furter, former boy band star Duncan James holds his own but never dominates.
However, the beauty of Rocky Horror is that the show itself is the star, and with a breath-taking lighting design by Nick Richings and glorious set design by Hugh Durrant, production values are of the highest order, as are the five piece band under the musical direction of George Carter. All of which means you can still give yourself over to absolute pleasure...
Until Saturday 2 November