The Gordon Frost Organisation/Adelaide Festival Centre. Festival Theatre. 5 Jan 2018
‘Transformative’, ‘audience engaging’ and ‘teasing’ are key descriptors that encompass a successful The Rocky Horror Show experience. Unfortunately, compromise has resulted in a less satisfying, diluted experience.
The ripping tale of two uptight lovebirds that get stranded in a storm and fatefully shelter in a castle housing a sexy psycho scientist has been doing the rounds for over 40 years. It is therefore imperative that every new director and cast discovers ways to express the show’s delicious line-crossing sexuality, alienation, and rebellion dressed in rich, lusty sci-fi characters and libidinous rock lyrics. These elements are at the absolute core of Richard O’Brien’s book and score - one of the most influential contemporary creations of its time.
Director Christopher Luscombe has a talented cast to work with. Craig McLachlan inhabits the very skin of lusty firebrand transsexual Frank N Furter with great confidence. He’s superbly supported by Amanda Harrison as Magenta and Kristian Laverscombe as Riff Raff. Uptight semi frigid couple Rob Mallett and Michelle Smitheram as Brad Majors and Janet Weiss are wonderfully all American screwed up kids of the science fiction era.
Most promising is designer Hugh Durrant’s fantastic set, paying clear homage to the original stage production captured in a filmed run, and lighting designer Nick Richings’ perfect late-night gory picture show lighting. Musical director Dave Skelton rocks it out as best as possible above stage, but unfortunately this works against a good sound mix.
For a work which has proven it can free the body and mind with two hours of highly intelligent sauciness this production has what one might call emotional blocks to absolute fulfilment, let alone pleasure.
Why does McLachlan spend so much time engaged in Benny Hill like comic business with a microphone? Why does there always seem to be a sense of nervousness about going for it when sexiness at its hottest and cleverest is required? What is Luscombe frightened of? O’Brien’s lyrics do not forgive lesser attempts to meet their hardcore demands. They could practically ask of the cast ‘why on earth are you here?’
While the first half of the evening is off kilter and time, the second redeems the production by perfectly expressing the emotional denouement of Frank N Furter and co. The passion, the sense of loss, love requited, and identity spurned is perfection. It seemed easier to run with, which was disquieting given the performances in the first half.
Nonetheless it is an enjoyable production and does get the front rows out of their seats dancing at the conclusion. Then again, a top notch production should incite them to dance and go riot from the very start.
When: 28 Dec 17 to 13 Jan 18
Where: Adelaide Festival Theatre