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Rocky Horror Show review: I heard one person behind me complaining about the heckling

Theatre: Actors wisely choose not to reinvent too much, though one gag suggests show can still offend

The Rocky Horror Show

Bord Gáis Energy Theatre


Time Warp, indeed. It is just over 50 years since The Rocky Horror Show first arrived in the West End. Even then, Richard O’Brien’s catalogue of bangers was, for all its breaking of taboos, steeped in nostalgia – a cobwebby celebration of American horror from the 1930s to the 1960s. The crowd at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre can be easily forgiven for not recognising the early reference to Michael Rennie in Science Fiction/Double Feature. The star of The Day the Earth Stood Still was already in his grave by the time of that premiere at the Royal Court.

This touring production, directed by Christopher Luscombe, arrives in Dublin as a lovabe old warhorse. The once-saucy gestures to sexual fluidity will no longer cause any fainting in the stalls. But there is no denying the wallop of the best tunes. Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me, Over at the Frankenstein Place and, of course, Time Warp are as belt-outable as anything in Oliver!

A decent cast, spread about a chunky set, attack them with a relish undimmed by repetition. The actors will know they cannot escape comparison with those in the famous 1975 film – Tim Curry, Patricia Quinn, Susan Sarandon – and they, wisely, make little effort to reinvent. Kristian Lavercombe puts something arachnid into his Riff Raff. Stephen Webb gives Frank N Furter, the tights-clad gender-flexible centre of the piece, impressive physical solidity. Like a contemporaneous glam rocker, he stomps as much as he shimmies.

The actor having the most fun, not for the first time, is the one playing the narrator. Philip Franks, following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Charles Gray, Dick Cavett and Jonathan Adams, appears to relish the often groan-worthy innovations for his current residency. There are lewd jokes about Guinness that have much to do with cream. Heckles cause him to wonder if this can really be the home of Oscar Wilde. Travelling gags reference Donald Trump in predictable fashion and Jeffrey Epstein in a manner that suggests this production may still be capable of giving offence.


Franks, a familiar TV actor perhaps still best known for the 1990s ITV version of The Darling Buds of May, is the one most tasked with maintaining the famous audience interaction. Anyone hoping for the structured, dressed-up mayhem remembered from famous screenings of the movie at the Classic in Harold’s Cross would, on the evening reviewed, have been disappointed. Maybe it was a first-night crowd. The weather may have had something to do with that. Who wants to wear little but suspenders and basque when taking the bus during a blizzard? I heard one Rocky virgin behind me complaining about the heckling before having it patiently explained that this was supposed to happen.

Runs at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre until January 20th

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist