The cult musical phenomenon that is the Rocky Horror Show has steamrolled into the West End for a limited run of just 19 shows at the Playhouse Theatre before embarking on a full UK tour... and judging from last night's performance, it certainly doesn't show any signs of slowing down.
This current incarnation is practically the same as ATG's 2012-13 touring production which starred Oliver Thornton as infamous Frank N Furter. In fact director Christopher Luscombe has returned along with cast members Ben Forster as Brad and Kristian Lavercome as Riff Raff, so it does feel more like a reunion. However, the cherry on top of this seductive cake is, of course, the stage return of the show's creator Richard O'Brien, this time appearing as The Narrator. If that wasn't sweet enough to seal the deal, Rocky veteran and Olivier winner David Bedella has donned the pearl necklace and suspenders once again in the role he was simply born to play as leading man... or leading sweet transvestite - Frank N Furter.
Since 1973, the Rocky Horror Show has been reviewed and reviewed until the cows come home, so I thought it might be more interesting to take a friend to the show, who would be popping his RHS cherry, so to speak, and see the show from his perspective, rather than to write a standard theatre review. He arrived at the theatre looking like one of the 'posh' contributors off "Gogglebox." Other more extravagantly clad audience members might have thought he was headed to see Oscar Wilde's 'The Importance of Being Earnest' and took a wrong turn somewhere along the way. Indeed the whole evening left him somewhat bewildered, confused and slightly in awe. His parting comment to me afterwards: "Well, I felt like I had arrived at a party very, very late and everyone was already completely smashed and my stone cold sober self was constantly trying to catch up."
This got me to thinking - is the Rocky Horror Show actually quite a cliquey establishment? Do you have to be a fully-fledged, lipstick-wearing member to completely appreciate the evening? Even theatregoers widely accustomed to the Christmas pantomime each year cannot be prepared for the level of audience participation, in-jokes and downright filthy language hurled towards the stage from hardcore aficionados. This wasn't my first time at the rodeo, but it was interesting to witness how lost a Rocky virgin could feel amongst the chaos.
For fans of the show, this is a five-star night out and a chance to celebrate the tongue-in-cheek (and probably tongue-in-certain-other-orifices too) proceedings with their brethren, in the presence of their shepherd and hero, O'Brien. His physical awkwardness and deliberately slow pace as The Narrator only added to the weird intrigue of the night. For the average theatregoer, this may be a three-star, entertaining but what-on-God's-green-Earth -is-going-on night out. But whichever category you find yourself in, one cannot deny the fact that there is just nothing else in the world of musical theatre quite like The Rocky Horror Show and nor will there ever be again.