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A CurtainUp London London Review
Shock Treatment

"Wake up and smell the Rohypnol." — Ralph
Shock Treatment
Adam Rhys-Davies as Dr Cosmo Nation and Julie Atherton as Janet Majors (Photo: Peter Langdown)
When I started reviewing in the late 1990s, the twice monthly edition of the Society of London Theatre List would say that Richard O'Brien was working on the follow up to The Rocky Horror Picture show which would be called The Second Coming but like so many promises, it never came!

What I, and many others, had completely missed was Shock Treatment, a 1981 film which flopped at the time, but later the music proved very popular featuring the ongoing story of Brad Majors and his wife Janet.

Shock Treatment is set on a television reality show in Denton, Ohio, (what a visionary Richard O'Brien is!) which would examine their failing marriage and see the intervention of a fast food and TV magnate called Farley Flavors, who recruits Janet as a television host.

Tom Crowley has adapted for the stage Jim Sharman's original book so that the plot works much better, according to those I spoke to on the night who had seen the original follow up movie. Richard O'Brien's lyrics are as clever and witty as ever and Richard Hartley's music bears similarities to the Rocky Horror rock genre. Richard Hartley was a member of the original 4 piece band in 1971 and wrote orchestrations and arrangements for the original staging.

The King's Head is a pub theatre, London's oldest and the space is similar to the 63 seat theatre that was the Royal Court Upstairs which staged Rocky Horror in 1971. As the show goes on air, the amazing lighting changes the colours of the costumes and with UV, teeth glow extra white. Ralph and Betty Hapschatt (the very handsome Mateo Oxley and Rosanna Hyland) host the programme and persuade Janet (Julie Atherton) to take part . She drags along a reluctant Brad (Ben Kerr). As Brad and Janet are introduced on air, Brad's eyes anxiously move continuously back and fore. Doctors are called in to treat Brad's lack of interest in his wife.

Julie Atherton plays Janet Majors. She has a dream of a voice which is thrilling and she is a very experienced West End performer in musical leads and who can convey all the emotions of the lyrics. Janet has become the breadwinner since Brad got laid off. House husband Brad is at home alone with just four walls and a vacuum cleaner for company! Brad and Janet sing "Bitchin' in the Kitchen" with its wonderful lyrics driven by household appliances, rhyming refrigerator with sooner or later and shower curtain with certain.

Ralph asserts his masculinity in "Thank God I'm a Man"a spoof song listing off traditional male occupations like mowing the lawn and changing spark plugs while Janet sings her love song to Brad, "In My Own Way".

As Farley Flavors, Mark Little arrives on stage in a white plastic suit looking a little like Saddam Hussein but with red and white shiny patent shoes and talking through his songs but with good singing back up from Cosmo and Nation. What Mark Little lacks in singing, he makes up in booming stage presence. "Shock Treatment" the title song is a stand out hit but with a very real threat to Brad under the medical treatment of Cosmo and Nation McKinley, which I actually found distressing.

There is a new dance, a version of the "Time Warp" with more complicated moves. A makeover for Janet has a song to "Little Black Dress". There are strong performances from Mateo Oxley and Julie Atherton and good comedy from Adam Rhys Davies as Cosmo and Nic Lamont as Nation McKinley. They have wonderful round white spectacles which make them seem otherworldly and scary.

Tom Crowley has simplified the plot and the resulting musical has much of the charm of Rocky Horror and with repetition, the songs will surely grow on you. It has a seven week run booked at the King's Head but I suspect we shall see the stage version of Shock Treatment get a following with its blend of tongue in cheek humour, rock music and late night appeal.

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Shock Treatment
Music by Richard Hartley
Lyrics by Richard O'Brien
Original Book by Jim Sharman
Adapted for the stage by Tom Crowley
New arrangements and additional Composition Alex Beetschen
Directed by Benji Sperring

Starring: Julie Atherton, Mark Little, Rosanna Hyland, Ben Kerr, Nic Lamont, Mateo Oxley, Adam Rhys-Davies
Musical Director: Alex Beetschen
Set Designer: Tim Shortall
Costume Designer: Xylona Appleton
Lighting: Nic Farman
Sound: Chris Drohan
Choreographer: Lucie Pankhurst
Running time: One hour 35 minutes with no interval
Box Office: 020 7226 4443
Booking to 6th June 2015
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 21st April 2015 performance at the King's Head Theatre , 115 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1QN (Tube: The Angel)
Song List
  • Overture (Orchestra)
  • Denton, USA (Betty, Ralph, Cosmo, Nation)
  • Bitchin' in the Kitchen (Brad, Janet)
  • Thank God I'm a Man (Ralph)
  • In My Own Way (Janet)
  • Farley's Song (Farley, Cosmo, Nation)
  • Lullaby (Ensemble)
  • Little Black Dress (Cosmo, Janet, Ralph, Nation)
  • Me of Me (Ralph, Janet)
  • Shock Treatment (Cosmo and Nation)
  • Carte Blanche (Nation, Cosmo, Ralph, Betty, Janet)
  • Looking for Fame (Janet, Ralph, Cosmo, Nation, Betty)
  • Look What I Did To My Id (Ralph, Farley, Cosmo, Nation, Betty)
  • Breaking Out (Ralph)
  • Duel Duet (Farley, Brad)
  • In My Own Way reprise (Brad)
  • Anyhow, Anywhere (Ensemble)
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