North East Post
A Voice of the Free Press
Phil Hopkins
Group Travel Editor & Theatre Correspondent
7:00 AM 29th June 2023

An Absolute Horror Story!

An absolute horror story!
An absolute horror story!
Generation after generation continue to discover the wildly delicious Rocky Horror Show whilst writer Richard O’Brien lovingly counts his annual Royalty receipts which must pour in faster than Mo Farah’s legs can move!

The second any city’s precincts start to feature six-foot men in suspenders – usually around 7pm – you know that Rocky’s in town and that the muscular transvestite Frank N Furter won’t be far behind! Last night it was Leeds’ turn as the 2023 World Tour continued to circumnavigate the planet: the planet Transexual to be precise!

Richard O-Brien’s Rocky Horror Show is back in all its gory wonderfulness.

This time I took my very own ‘virgin’ – seasoned followers of this wildly anarchic show will appreciate my reference - my better half, Mrs Hopkins who was utterly bewildered bordering on the speechless.

Blown away? Not quite, just utterly confused as to why half the population of Leeds, including men, were wearing stockings and suspenders, basques and blood-stained surgical gowns!

That’s because Rocky Horror now occupies that unique position in theatre that every writer must wish for: that of the cult musical.

And, the second you achieve that status, people will keep going to the show again, and again and again…..which is rather good for Mr O’Brien’s pension pot! It also means the audience get to dress up!

It’s been going for half a century and gets noisier each year, not simply because of the excellent rock ‘n’ roll bands that seemingly propel this musical through two hours of madness, but because the audience know the script so well that they are able to make their own politically incorrect shout outs! And they came thick and fast!

Which meant top marks to the ‘Narrator’ – certainly not Philip Franks as advertised – but an eloquent imposter (Kristian Lavercombe's doppelganger perhaps?) who has probably doing half of the roles in the show for some time it would seem!

Every brutal shout out was met with an equally witty repost. Near the knuckle? His replies damn near sat on someone’s hand!

Stephen Webb as the dubious Frank N Furter, was good but not brilliant. He anchored the show but never quite reached the level of perfection of the part’s originator, Tim Curry and, let’s be honest, certain iconic roles are rapidly benchmarked when a show takes on niche status: the Emcee in Cabaret (Joel Grey); Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews)…..audiences almost demand the original.

His accent didn’t quite work for me.

Curry was master of the pregnant pause and languished over his words like a perverted show off.

But, where was the build up for Webb's first stage entry? It was too quick.

I have, in the past, seen Frank N Furter's entrance purposely leaving audiences ‘hanging’ as a heavy guitar bass builds up the protagonist’s first stage entrance, leaving audiences screaming and drooling: too quick and the moment is wasted.

But, again, this was still a great night’s entertainment all those years on from 1973 when it first aired.

These days the ad libs fly thick and fast. Even ‘disgraced’ Royal Prince Andrew found his way in there.

Ben Westhead as Rocky had a physique to die for – perfect casting – whilst Richard Meek and Haley Flaherty as Brad and Janet were excellent.

This time they got the casting for Eddie bang on. Joe Allen – doubling as Dr Scott – was brilliant with his ‘couldn’t give a s**t’ attitude and a curled lip that would have given Billy Idol a run for his money!

This liberating show allows people to be themselves or, more to the point, become someone they always wanted to be but never dared to in the past! For two hours the world goes mad and, quite franklyfurter, it’s a right hoot and the ultimate tonic.

Go and blow away the mid-summer blues!

Rocky Horror Show
Leeds Grand Theatre
Until Saturday 1st July