I have to confess something… until last night, I was a Rocky Horror virgin. Richard O’Brien’s classic musical is not so much a stage show as a phenomenon with a life of its own, and seeing it for the first time feels a bit like stumbling into a club of which you’re not a member. There are weird outfits, private jokes and choreographed dance moves – and that’s just the audience.
Fortunately, initiation into the Rocky Horror club is not only painless, but a lot of fun. And one thing becomes abundantly clear from the first moment: if you love this show, you will love this show. It’s a classic of such epic proportions, with such a devoted following, that it doesn’t really matter who’s in it, or where you see it; unless something goes horribly wrong, a Rocky Horror fan – old or new – is pretty much guaranteed a good time.
For the record, though, the touring production of Rocky Horror currently making a stop at the Orchard Theatre is of the highest quality, whether you’ve seen the show hundreds of times or you’re a slightly bewildered newbie. Slick, sexy and spectacular, it has a wicked sense of humour matched only by the increasingly cheeky responses being shouted by the Dartford audience, which the cast – particularly Norman Pace as the Narrator – handle with great aplomb.
Richard Meek and Lauren Ingram are perky and loveable as newly engaged Brad and Janet, who find themselves drawn into the bizarre world of Dr Frank-N-Furter when they get a flat tyre on a stormy night. Kristian Lavercombe is irresistibly creepy as Riff Raff, Dominic Andersen sets everyone’s pulses racing as Rocky and Sophie Linder-Lee’s Columbia is a brilliantly unhinged groupie. But the stage really belongs to Liam Tamne as Frank-N-Furter, the Sweet Transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania; hilarious, seductive and quite, quite mad (not to mention a bit chainsaw-happy), he has both his guests and the audience in the palm of his hand from the start.
Oh, and the songs. Well, we all know the songs, right? Dammit Janet, Sweet Transvestite, Hot Patootie… Even for a first-timer, they’re pretty hard to resist – and come on, who never did the Time Warp at their school disco? There were a couple of occasions when the band drowned out the vocals a bit, but by that point things had got so bonkers I’d long since given up on keeping track of what was happening anyway.
Don’t think of Rocky Horror as a musical. It’s an experience: one I’m glad to have had – and that I won’t soon forget…
Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show is at the Orchard Theatre until 11th June 2016.