time warpers

The Rocky Horror Show

The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham


Everyone did very well, they never fluffed their lines or missed a cue and their timing was immaculate – oh, and the cast did all right as well. You see this is not so much a show, more a party - and everyone is invited.

In fact, this is the show that puts the you in raunchy, the you being the audience members who turn up in basques, suspenders, fishnets, short skirts, and, the more coy, in usherette outfits . . . and the women dress up like that as well.

To say it is a cult would be a little like explaining the location of the toilet habits of bears, it has become a theatrical phenomenon with its 50th birthday fast approaching in June, but most of all it is fun - raunchy, risqué, ribald, rude and remarkable naughty fun.

It is Richard O’Brien’s homage to the cheesy science fiction and horror B-movies of the 1930s through to the 1960s, opening with an usherette singing Science Fiction/Double Feature, a clever song referencing some ten or so B-movies and their stars.

It is beautifully sung by Suzie McAdam, who is to reappear as Magenta, the maid from Transylvania - that’s the planet, a forbidden one we can presume, not the Romanian enclave of Vlad the Impaler of Dracula fame.

She opens the curtain to start the show then heads off to sell ice creams from her tray as we encounter Janet and Brad in lovely performances from Haley Flaherty and Richard Meek as our young, engaged lovers, on their way to see their old science teacher.

That would be that, a very short show, except they get a flat tyre, in a downpour, and seek help and a telephone (scary music) at a gloomy castle (imagine lightning flashes and bats) which appears to be populated by the extra weird end of the really weirdo community..

Janet looking like a 1950’s Bobby Soxer, and straight laced Brad are what we might call normal, which could be a problem, for them, not us, something pointed out by the narrator, Philip Franks.


It is a fine performance from him in what is far from the easiest role with audience interjections every few words, and a need for quick thinking, and he managed it brilliantly.

And no one was safe, we had digs at Boris Johnson’s honesty, Prince Andrew, Phil and Holly’s queue jumping and anyone else daft enough to get themselves in the news while Rocky Horror was touring.

The trouble comes in the shape of Dr Frank N Furter, played camp as you like, and then some, by Stephen Webb who seems to be having the time of his life as the louche mad scientist.  

Back in 1973, upstairs in The Royal Court in Sloane Square, Rocky Horror was way ahead of its time in terms of sexuality. Back then bisexual was a bicycle with a speech impediment to most people so a bisexual, cross-dressing, transexual, transvestite scientist in basque and fishnets was not something you came across every day.

The role oozes sexuality, of an equal opportunities nature, but it’s all done tongue in cheek, which perhaps could have been phrased better in the circumstances, but you see what I mean. This is sex purely for laughs and it works a treat – although perhaps best not bring maiden aunts along for this particular treat unless they are well insured.

The good, or rather, bad, doctor is surrounded by his acolytes, there is the hunchback Riff Raff, played by Kristian Lavercombe, who knows the role pretty well by now, having played it more than 2000 times. That makes him the record holder for the number of appearances by anyone in the show.

At an average of seven shows a week with matinees, that is somewhere north of five and a half solid years of his life spent time warping and making the role of the delightfully sleazy butler and handy man his own.


Then there is Magenta, the maid, Suzie McAdam, supplementing her income as an usherette, and groupie Columbia, played by Darcy Finden, who has fallen hook, line and basque for Frank.

And then we have the eponymous Rocky, whose costume consists of a pair of gold lamé budgie smugglers. Rocky, played by Ben Westhead, is the Frankenstein-style creation of Frank, except eschewing the bolt through the neck, stitches around the head Mary Shelley version, Frank has gone for blonde, young, well-muscled, tanned perfection.

All is not as it seems though – just in case anyone was actually believing what was going on – so enter Joe Allen as Dr Scott. He had appeared earlier as rocker delivery boy Eddie, but no one likes to talk about Eddie or what happened to him . . . so we will leave it there.

Dr Scott meanwhile, with perhaps a hint to Dr Strangelove, appears in his wheelchair as the secret of the castle, Riff Raff, Magenta and the rest is revealed, everyone gets lasered, the Usherette reappears to draw the curtain, with a reprise of Science Fiction/Double Feature and that's it. The end, that’s all folks, - and we all head off home.

Except, come on, we have to have a community sing and dancealong Time Warp before we go – up on your feet, let’s to do the time warp again.

The show has developed over the years, taking on board technical advances in lighting and so on, but at its heart it is still the same camp, irreverent tribute to the low budget B-movies that fascinated the young, struggling actor Richard O’Brien back in 1970.

Rocky Horror became a film, has opened and toured around the world and has even developed its own script for the audience along the way, who are as much part of the show as the actors, an audience where many were not even born - some whose parents were not even born - when Dr Frank N Furter first warped time.

The cast play along, making this almost a community show, and what a cast. There is a lot of experience in the CVs of the leads and it shows with confident, assured performances, and they displayed some fine voices, particularly Brad and Janet with Super Heroes and Frank with I’m going home.

The five piece band, under Musical Director Charlie Ingles, are sat high on a shelf at the back of the stage behind a giant strip of film, another nod to the musical’s origin, in Hugh Durrant’s set. The technicals are worth a mention with Nick Richins’ dramatic lighting and Gareth Owen’s well balanced sound adding to the mix while Nathan M Wright’s classy choreography adds interest to every scene aided by Sue Blane’s iconic costumes. Everything works in wonderful, theatrical harmony.

If you have seen the show before you will not be disappointed and if you haven’t, you can’t get much more fun with your clothes on – or off if you go for the basque look . . . it's astounding and time is fleeting . . .

Directed by Christopher Luscombe time will be warping its way around the Alex to 01-04-23

Roger Clarke


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