REVIEW: Milton Keynes Theatre's raunchy reopening from pandemic as Rocky Horror Show drives the audience wild
Be Time-Warped to a place where you can momentarily forget the troubles of the pandemic
What a way to celebrate the reopening of Milton Keynes Theatre. .. by being Time-Warped to a place where you can momentarily forget the troubles of the past year or so and lose yourself in the weird and wonderful world of the Rocky Horror Show.
I must admit it was quite an emotional moment as my daughter and I took our seat in the stalls for Monday evening's performance of Richard O'Brien's classic - a sign that life is beginning to return to some degree of normality. The pandemic has made life oh so dull as we've endured lockdowns, closed venues, working from home and plenty more besides as the country tries to beat coronavirus.
The recent lifting of most Covid restrictions has allowed MK Theatre to reopen and the question now is how soon will audiences have the confidence to return?
It shouldn't be too long at all if Monday night is anything to go by as plenty had decided it was time to bite the bullet and let down their hair for the wildest party in town... and the Sims family will certainly be back as pre-show my daughter flicked through the new season brochure and declared she wanted to see pretty much everything coming up!
The theatre has introduced a number of safety measures in recognition that the pandemic is not yet over, with all attendees over the age of 18 required to provide proof of their COVID-19 status to gain entry. More details here. Once inside, the high proportion of the audience, despite it being optional, had chosen to wear a face mask too.
Now, I believe I mentioned the evening was a signal that life is beginning to return to normal... but as those of you who have seen this musical before will know, normal is not a word you'd ever use to describe the Rocky Horror Show.
I've never had the pleasure of seeing it before, but as first-timers my daughter and I got an idea of what we were letting ourselves in for through a bit of internet research and then the arrival of numerous theatre-goers in a variety of outrageous outfits - including one chap who arrived as Rocky in just his pants (luckily for him air con hadn't been set to full blast)!
There were obviously scores of people who had probably seen the show more times than they cared to remember - and keep coming back for more. As well as the dressing up, there was plenty of shouting back lines in all the right places, singing along and dancing. Then there were the props for the audience to use at the right moments which included a pink rubber glove, party hat and miniature torch.
The Narrator (Philip Franks) was one of the stars of the show and played his role expertly as he delivered jokes and innuendo brilliantly and reacted to everything the audience threw at him. There were many contemporary references, with the amber watch list and Matt Hancock thrown in for good measure.
Brad, played by Strictly Come Dancing winner Ore Oduba, was full of energy and won me over within seconds with his infectious energy and great voice as he proclaimed his love for Janet (Hayley Flaherty).
After their car gets a flat tyre outside Dr Frank’n’Furter's castle, the action and raunchiness really cranks up as the mad scientist enters the fray.
The hilarious bed scene at the start of Act 2 between Janet and Frank initially (with a few surprises thrown in later) was fantastic - especially when Janet begged Frank to "stop it" in an extremely half-hearted way.
The show features all of the famous musical numbers which have made the Rocky Horror Show such a huge hit for over four decades, including Sweet Transvestite, Science Fiction/Double Feature, Dammit Janet and, of course, the timeless floor-filler The Time-Warp which got all bums off seats.
And we were up on our feet again as the show came to a climax to give every single cast member a well-deserved cheer. Predictably, Dr Frank’n’Furter (Stephen Webb) got the loudest ovation, but I must say I really thought Riff Raff (Kristian Lavercombe) stood out too.
As for my 15-year-old daughter, she declared the trip as "the best outing of her school summer holidays so far" and 24 hours later can't stop singing Time-Warp!
The Rocky Horror Show runs at MK Theatre until the evening of Saturday, August 7. To join the guaranteed party go here