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A CurtainUp London Review
The Rocky Horror Show Gets a New Life
I must have seen about four or five different incarnations of The Rocky Horror Show including one more than thirty years ago in the Kings Road, Chelsea starring Spamalot's wonderful Tim Curry and the writer himself, Richard O'Brien as the definitive Riff-Raff. In the early 1970s, I thought I had died and gone to Heaven: a joky, sexy rock musical with lyrics so witty they stayed with you and were worth quoting. Outrageously camp performances from all the cast and everyone ending up in a basque and fishnets. Then it caught on and I remember Rocky Horror's twenty fifth birthday party at Richmond with many of the audience in basques and fishnets and Richard O'Brien in a silver lurex tube of a frock. I took my friend Janet, Dammit! The audience are amazing.
The show has captured the imagination of a cross-dressing generation —- consultant neurosurgeons by day, Frank 'n' Furter in fishnets and suspenders by night! When my children were old enough, the Rocky Horror tapes became a regular part of any Hallowe'en celebration and they too got taken to the theatre see Tim McInnerny and Jason Donovan amongst others play the gorgeous Transylvanian Transsexual, Frank.
So the great David Bedella has a lot to live up to. But he doesn't disappoint . This is most definitely his show. His speaking voice is unexpectedly in the deepest register and he can belt out these great rock numbers wonderfully. I don't know why he was miked up for the show unless it was to make other less powerful singers feel inconspicuous!
Bedella is less masterful and more coquettish than the usual run of Frank 'n' Furters. He seems to really enjoy the repartee of the crowd, as he giggles and chortles at the rejoinders developed by the crowds of midnight movie fans who would participate in the film with waving cigarette lighters, sheltering under folded newspapers and the chorusing of "Arsehole!" whenever anyone says Brad or "Slut!" when they say Janet. Bedella has the most beautiful eyes and his prettiness seems to make him less sinister and predatory but this interferes with the storyline premise that Frank has become out of control so that Riff-Raff and Magenta have to stage their coup. Maybe it is just that in the three decades since The Rocky Horror Show premiered that gender switching itself is less shocking.
Sarah Boulton in her candy pink pleated 1950s frock and her polite white underwear is a lovely Janet, squeaky clean and believable in her sexual awakening transformation to "I Wanna Be Dirty." Her singing is great. Matthew Cole is a remarkably handsome Brad Majors but fortunately disguised in horn rims, bow tie and tartan jacket as the uptight, prattish, all American male. I liked too Iain Davey's hump backed Riff-Raff but Nathan Amzi's Eddie in the heavy rock number "Hot Patootie" lacked power. Julian Essex-Spurrier is cute as muscle boy Eddie.
An interesting development, which seems to be this year's flavour of set designers, is the staging of the vertical bed for the scenes with Frank taking their cherry from Janet and Brad. The silhouetted action played out behind a screen was what I liked least about previous productions and the vertical bed works well in this revelatory scene. The whole show has been updated and restaged for this production which was on tour for much of last year and is due to revisit some of the same venues.
Rocky Horror attracts repeat bookings and is picking up the younger audience as well. Those who see Bedella in the role can count on absolute pleasure!
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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