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Review: The Rocky Horror Show, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

WIGS, corsets and lab coats were donned as the Rocky Horror Show rolled into Southampton last night (Monday) for a five-day run at the Mayflower Theatre.

Part of a 50th anniversary tour, the iconic musical by Richard O’Brien was every bit as weird and wonderful as it was on my first encounter as a slightly bemused 18-year-old those many years ago.

But while many teen memories have faded with the mist of time, the Rocky Horror Show was exactly as I remembered it– dazzling, flamboyant, raunchy and utterly bonkers!

The Rocky Horror Show is on until Saturday (picture: The Other Richard)
The Rocky Horror Show is on until Saturday (picture: The Other Richard)

Marking half a century of non-stop playing, the show first opened in London in June 1973 at the Royal Court Theatre and has become the longest continuous run of a contemporary musical anywhere in the world. It has been seen by over 30 million people worldwide and inspired a cult following like no other – highlighted by the many audience members happy to don corsets and suspenders on a damp and dreary March evening!

It is a show in which full audience participation and immersion are key, from the regular shout-outs, and quick-wit cast responses to the Time Warp dance routine which got everyone in the theatre on their feet. It’s the sort of phenomenon that you can’t really describe – except to say everyone should see the Rocky Horror Show at least once – and the latest tour is as good as it gets.

Blending Sci-fi and rock and roll, it tells the story of two squeaky clean college kids – Brad and his fiancée Janet – who seek help at a creepy mansion after their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.

It is fair to say that after one evening in the company of Frank N Furter and his army of misfits, the high school sweethearts will never be the same again!

Stepping into Frank N Furter’s sizeable stilettos, Stephen Webb, was magnificent with a superb voice as he delivered the perfect combination of mania and comedy to the iconic role.

Haley Flaherty and Richard Meek hit just the right note as Janet and Brad, the bewildered teens who grow in confidence under Frank's spell.

Something of an Rocky institution – having played the role of Riff Raff over 2,000 times – Kristian Lavercombe was absolutely spot on in the role, as were Darcy Finden as Columbia and Suzie McAdam as Magenta and the usherette.

Encouraging maximum audience participation and demonstrating quick wit and versatility, Philip Franks was brilliantly funny in the all-important narrator role.

The world has changed enormously in the 25 years since I first saw the Rocky Horror Show, but Richard O’Brien’s wacky and wonderful show continues to be as spectacularly flamboyant as ever. With a cast as good as this and the addition of dazzling scenery, costumes and special effects, I’m pretty sure the popularity of the Rocky Horror Show will continue to endure.

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