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Review: The Rocky Horror Picture Show World Tour, Manchester

Stephen Webb [Frank-N-Furter], Richard Meek [Brad], Haley Flaherty [Janet] & cast <i>(Image: David Freeman)</i>
Stephen Webb [Frank-N-Furter], Richard Meek [Brad], Haley Flaherty [Janet] & cast (Image: David Freeman)

With all that’s going on in the world at the moment, you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s nothing positive to hang our hat on. But no - put down that newspaper, stop scrolling on your phone and marvel out loud about how a few insanely talented people can captivate a theatre filled with hundreds of people enough to make them totally forget their worries - for an evening at least. 

It’s strange when you think about it: lots of people sitting down to watch some other people pretending to be different people – all facing the same way and expectantly waiting to be entertained. It’s an odd concept, but boy does theatre work and, oh my, how it works for Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Picture Show World Tour. 

Great British Life: Stephen Webb as Frank n Furter - Photographer David FreemanStephen Webb as Frank n Furter - Photographer David Freeman (Image: David Freeman)

As a youngster I was aware of Susan Sarandon and Tim Curry, both equally alluring in very different ways. It’s not until we reach an older age that we fully understand the story – and the innuendo – and Rocky Horror at Manchester’s Opera House does this with aplomb. Even Philip Franks as the narrator joined in with the cross-dressing merriment in the finale. 

As one would expect, the pre-show fashion catwalk of die-hard Rocky Horror fans is a sight to behold. The purists here this evening span the age spectrum, and it is a real treat to watch everyone taking their seats dressed as their favourite character. Grown men in corsets or scrubs (or both), women in sequinned waistcoats and hats or maid outfits – it’s a riot of colour and unity before the curtain rises, and I imagine there is not a pair of fishnet tights left to buy in the whole of Greater Manchester. 

Great British Life: Ben Westhead [Rocky] & Haley Flaherty [Janet] Photo: David FreemanBen Westhead [Rocky] & Haley Flaherty [Janet] Photo: David Freeman (Image: David Freeman)

The story behind the Rocky Horror picture Show is sublime, surreal, comedic, and outrageous in equal measure. Brad Majors (Richard Meek) and Janet Weiss’ (Haley Flaherty) car breaks down and they try to locate a telephone to call for help. They happen upon the castle of Dr. Frank N. Further (Stephen Webb) and his band of oddball inhabitants as they prepare for a party. Brad and Janet are welcomed with the classic The Time Warp, performed with serious class by Riff Raff (Kristian Lavercombe), Magenta (Suzie McAdam) and Columbia (Darcy Finden), giving the couple an idea of what’s to come, and of course the entire audience is up on its feet. Add in the always bizarre bringing to life of muscle man Rocky, and his amazing abs, and the wonderfully staged seduction of Brad and Janet by Dr. Frank N. Furter, and it’s clear that this leg of the world tour is not pulling any punches with its wonderful staging. 

The audience is dazzled by colour, costumes, sequins, superbly delivered songs and plenty of cheeky jokes, and rewards the cast with its constant – and welcomed - participation in the smutty dialogue. There’s riotous laughter during many parts of the show, and it’s clear that everyone involved is having the very best time. 

Great British Life: Ben Westhead [Rocky] & Stephen Webb [Frank-N-Furter]. Photo: David FreemanBen Westhead [Rocky] & Stephen Webb [Frank-N-Furter]. Photo: David Freeman (Image: David Freeman)

As the story concludes, and it’s revealed that Dr. Frank N. Furter is not only a mad scientist transvestite, but also an alien from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania, all hell breaks loose with debauched dancing, professing of love and some rather laser-filled deaths. 

When they remember to take a breath again, and before the encore, it’s obvious, looking around, that the audience, the entire theatre is filled with pure delight.  

And up on their feet we rose for the encore, which is a perfect end to a perfect evening. 

Until 27 January at Manchester Opera House, agttickets.com 

 

 

 



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