Rocky Horror Show @ Festival Theatre, Adelaide 19/4/2023

It’s astounding, time is fleeting…the Rocky Horror Show is fifty years old! The iconic cult classic returns to the Festival State with a new cast and, for a few shows only, one very special guest to celebrate its anniversary.

Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show is the musical-comedy-horror story of Brad (Ethan Jones), Janet (Deirdre Khoo) and an otherwise curious group of individuals. After their car breaks down, Brad and Janet seek refuge at the castle of Dr Frank N Furter (David Bedella). Here they are introduced to a world of oddity. This one night with Frank, his peculiar and eccentric friends, and bizarre experiments is life-changing for the newly engaged pair.

A show known for its audience participation, the Australian 50th-anniversary production did not buck the trend. Narrated by Myf Warhurst, who was joined on opening night by the legendary Richard O’Brien, the audience bellowed quick-witted responses from the get-go. O’Brien, no doubt used to this raucousness, and Warhurst were equally quick and droll with their retorts throughout.

The breaking of the fourth wall was amusing. Nor was it solely relegated to the narrators with Bedella not missing a beat in offering a ‘bless you’ mid-monologue to a sneezing audience member.

Such shenanigans make Rocky Horror Show noteworthy.

Having amassed a legion of fans since its inception in 1973, it has become commonplace to see the audience dressed up as the characters. Nay, it is encouraged that they do. The carnival atmosphere embraces the absurdity of the musical and adds to the enjoyment of the viewer experience.

With O’Brien’s script and lyrics having stood the test of time, the heavy lifting was left to Director Christopher Luscombe and his team to build on this and create a highly engaging production.

Set Designer Hugh Durrant has developed an elaborate yet compact set. The transition from the protagonists driving to the interior of Frank’s castle is seamless. While the positioning of the band above the stage behind an enormous strip of celluloid film is so subtle, you could be forgiven for not noticing they were there. Add to this Sue Blane’s costumes which encapsulate camp and glamour, and the spectacle materialises.

Nevertheless, it is the exceptional cast of national and international talent that elevated the show.

Laurence Olivier Award winner, Bedella, is engaging as Frank N Furter. He is steady (and highly erotic) in his approach, capturing devious more than camp. On the other hand, Stellar Perry (Usherette/ Magenta) is brash with her eccentricities. Similarly, Darcey Eagle offered a vibrant and emotive performance as Columbia.

Amongst the accomplished cast, the performance of Henry Rollo (Riff Raff) is a highlight. His excellent comedic timing and wicked grin exemplified the energy of the creepy character. Whenever he was on stage, your eye was drawn to him.

The musical numbers are wonderful. Now timeless classics, the songs vary from the iconic The Time Warp, the rocking Hot Patootie, and ballad Going Home, which coincidentally had the die-hard fan sitting next to me wiping away tears. All had the audience singing along.

Rocky Horror Show is an enduring fantastical extravaganza. The 50th-anniversary production has successfully captured what makes the story unique. Without a doubt, this show will have you cheering, ‘Let’s do the Time Warp again’ long after you leave the theatre.

Theatre Review By Anita Kertes

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