Rocky Horror at Leeds Grand Theatre Until 24 August

Weird, wonderful and absolutely astounding! Richard O’Brien’s legendary rock ‘n’ roll musical, The Rocky Horror Show,  was brought to life at the Leeds Grand Theatre. 

The streets of Leeds were bustling with glamour, glitz and stockings before the curtains were even raised at Leeds Grand Theatre.  The audience could have been mistaken for cast, with their impressive costumes, stilettos, wigs and (extremely) short (golden) shorts. Which could only mean one thing – Rocky Horror was back in town. 

Photograph by Richard Davenport

I had seen the film a few times as I’ve always been obsessed with performing arts and musicals in particular. In fact, I think I was once PART of a performance of Rocky Horror… but I’d never seen it live. So I was very much surprised by the cheekiness of the show as it was brought to life! My dad however, has always been a fan of the film Rocky Horror and it’s on his ‘must-see’ list of live performances. So, obviously, I invited him along to watch Duncan James as Dr Frank-N-Furter in the show directed by Christopher Luscombe. Rocky Horror has such a cult following that the audience members sitting behind me were shouting, singing and heckling the words to the whole show. Surprisingly, so was my dad. Whether you’re looking for a musical, concert, drag show or comedy night – The Rocky Horror Show has it all. 

Audience participation at the theatre was something I’d only ever witnessed in pantomimes aimed at children and ‘wobbly grandmas’. Never did I think I’d hear a room filled with adults shouting “bl*w j*bs” and “c*cks” in unison from their seats in the historical theatre. But, alas, from the stalls to the gods – heckles were coming from everywhere. At first, I thought the woman behind me had a couple of vino’s and decided to heckle at much-loved ex-blue star Duncan James. But when the rest of the audience started shouting the exact same things at the exact same time, it all began to make sense – it was part of the show. So as soon as I got home I did a bit of googling… The audience participation started in the USA in the 1970s.  It’s slowly made its way over to the UK and it’s now been built into the stage show. The cast are expecting people to talk-back throughout the script, especially when the narrator (Kristian Lavercombe) is centre stage. But Kristian Lavercombe manages to give it back just as well as he takes it. He portrayed an extremely witty (and sassy) story-teller throughout. Of course, there was the odd guy shouting non-scripted slurs about Brexit & Donald Trump, but it just added to the liberating and hilarious atmosphere.

Duncan James and Callum Evans

In all honesty, the show wouldn’t have felt complete without the audience participation. There was a certain expectation in the air after the first few were successfully called and responded to. And now that I’ve experienced the talk back between the 1500 people in the audience and the narrator, the show would be missing a key element without it. In fact, even when I watch the movie I’ll probably find myself calling Janet a ‘sl*t’. (You’ll see what I mean after you’ve seen the show…)

If you’re not familiar with the plot line, I’m not sure where you’ve been, but I’ll give you a run down (without giving too much away, of course). Brad and Janet, a newly engaged and sickly sweet couple, have trouble with their car breaking down in the rain. Their walk to find help leads them to a mysterious castle in the middle of nowhere. They’re greeted by Riff Raff, Magenta, Columbia and eventually Rocky. Frank-N-Furter makes an entrance with his well known number Sweet Transvestite, dressed in his famous lingerie set and velvet cloak. This has the whole audience whooping and wolf whistling (rightly so!) Frank is a mad scientist – a creator, murderer and seducer (in that order). The show is packed full of innuendos, saucy scenes and elaborate storylines as the lead character introduces the couple to his sexual and erotic lifestyle. It’s a drag show that incorporates sci-fi and rock’n’roll – it doesn’t make much sense and it’s certainly not supposed to.   I’ll leave the rest for you to witness yourself… 

Duncan James. Photograph by Johan Persson

Along with the unexpected, there’s also the experience of the much-loved hits from the original film in 1975 – Science Fiction/Double Feature, Sweet Transvestite and of course, The Time Warp. The whole audience are up on their feet doing a jump to the left and a step to the ri-i-i-i-ght. They made the night even more entertaining than it already was. It was as though I was in a room with a huge group of friends, when in actual fact, the only person in the room I knew was my dad. But I’ve never felt so comfortable to sing-a-long, dance and let my hair down! Everybody was there for the same reason – to have a fabulous time with other fabulous people! 

The set was just as glamorous as the dazzling costumes that each character modelled – tassel doors, pop art style props and smoke machines just added to the exceptional talent that was brought to the stage! The show is true to the film – with some added twists and surprises. Each character was extremely well executed and showcased each actor’s raw talent. It’s a must-see performance for anybody looking to have an extraordinary day at the theatre. You’ll laugh, you’ll dance, you’ll sing and you’ll swear. A night like no other. But maybe leave the children and wobbly grandmas at home… 

Feature photograph is Callum Evans by David Freeman.  All photographs provided by Leeds Grand Theatre.

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