The Rocky Horror Show – Review – Hull New Theatre

The Rocky Horror Show – Review – Bradford Alhambra Theatre (3)

By Roger Crow, October 2023

If there was a fear that Richard O’Brien’s cult musical had had its day in an age of cancel culture, those worries were put to rest as The Rocky Horror Show made a welcome return to Hull New Theatre this week as part of its world tour.

Now in its 50th year, the evergreen tale of wholesome American innocents Brad (Reece Budin) and Janet (Haley Flaherty) falling foul of dark forces is like a space shuttle burning through musical rocket fuel as it attempts to reach orbit.

Part one was over so fast I almost had whiplash as the half time curtain unfurled. The first half is so front-loaded with those classic tracks, from ‘Dammit Janet’, the immortal ‘Time Warp’ (which had just about everyone on their feet dancing), and ‘Sweet Transvestite’, I fear the second half, which has always been my least favourite.

Threading things together with peerless skill is Jackie Clune (co-star of Michael Caine’s new movie The Great Escaper) as the Narrator, who beautifully navigated her way around the verbal audience participation. Some of the calls from the crowd were as tried and tested as the show itself, and others a little more impromptu. Jackie was like iconic goalkeeper Mary Earps, stopping every heckler in their tracks and coming back with a gag 10 times funnier than anything they had to offer. That alone was a joy to behold, as is the set. The opening American Gothic-style church soon flips round to reveal Frank’s gothic pile, with good old Riff Raff. Kristian Lavercombe channels O’Brien so brilliantly, you’d think he had been possessed by the man himself. But then again, after more than 2000 performances in TRHS, little wonder he’s so good.

The Rocky Horror Show – Review – Bradford Alhambra Theatre (1)


The film strip which curls around the top of the stage is a beautiful nod to both the celluloid classics which inspired the show, and the 1975 film version, which I used to watch repeatedly circa 1990. I was so late to the stage show, I didn’t see my first production until about five years ago, and the audience in York were a lot more subdued than those in Hull.

This felt like Rocky Horror as it was meant to be seen, with a phenomenal band (that sound is outstanding) and punters in often stunning costumes.

And that cast. Like one of Frank-N-Furter’s gizmos, they are like a well-oiled machine, hitting their marks as well as the high notes with enviable skill.

A lot of shows rely on a star name to pull in the punters, but this version doesn’t need one. The show is the real star; a supernova if you like that for me burns out a little too early, as it always does, whether on stage or in the film. But that melancholy finale is the yin to the first act’s yang, and if you want to get all philosophical about it, feels a lot like life. Part one is raucous, crazy, exciting and over the top, and following a Janet/Frank/Brad tryst at the top of part two, and Frank’s inevitable comeuppance at the finale, things mellow out, like middle age.

The Rocky Horror Show – Review – Bradford Alhambra Theatre (2)


‘Don’t Dream It, Be It’ is a glorious manifesto for anyone wanting to follow their dreams,and a great counterpoint to the adrenaline-fuelled early classics.

A note-perfect usherette (Beth Woodcock, also a brilliant Magenta) opens and closes the show, and the curtains. And with an inevitable encore of ‘Time Warp’ among other favourites, Rocky Horror may actually be more perfectly structured than I realised.

Okay, there’s a couple of filler tracks, and I’d have liked Frank (played in this performance by Richard Meek) to be more British than American, like Tim Curry’s unforgettable turn in the role. However, for the most part this is as near a perfect show as you’re going to see in the run-up to Hallowe’en.

Kudos to director Christopher Luscombe and all the creatives who helped make this such an autumnal blues-buster of an event.

I may even return for seconds before it concludes its run at Hull New Theatre on October 14.

In a nutshell: It’s astounding.


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