The Rocky Horror Show

by RACHEL HALLIBURTON, Evening Standard

The Rocky Horror Show's 30th year production is inevitably less about suspense than suspenders - a place where hairy male buttocks, fishnet stockings and unconstricted feather boas fulfill all manner of exhibitionist desires.

Robbie Williams appeared in the audience last night conservatively dressed among the men in tights and women in corsets but nonetheless enthusiastically cheering on his friend Jonathan Wilkes, who stars with seductive oomph as the sweet transvestite Frank N. Furter.

Three decades ago, after its experimental birth at the Royal Court's Theatre Upstairs, this hedonistic musical won the Evening Standard's 1973 best musical award.

It was one of the first indications that the tale of Brad, his doll-like fiancee Janet, and their spectacular loss of innocence in a house of horrors would make cross-dressing and pelvic thrusts a staple of student discos, and would attract such fans as the woman who watched it more than 1,300 times.

This particular production will only cast its gothic shadow over the West End for two weeks, following a nine-month tour.

Tarted-up audience members ritually yelling out lines from the script, waving lights, throwing cards and rice in the air, and chorusing bawdy jokes demonstrated that this is a phenomenon combining sex and eccentricity, ripe for celebration.

As one who has often waggled her hips to the most famous song, the Time Warp, the combined energy of the crowd and the music seems enough to fuel this particular revival.

Visually it is let down by a cheap set that resembles a bad Blue Peter experiment.

Comedian Rhona Cameron heroically battles through the evening as narrator, even though her rhetorical question, "What is over?" was greeted by an audience member who cried out: "Your career!"

Jon Boydon as Brad - the man who puts the vest into transvestite - and Katie Rowley-Jones as Janet had a more difficult time with hecklers.

However, the moment that Wilkes enters, it becomes clear that his personality has both the backbone and the anarchic razzle-dazzle to sustain the evening.

Structurally, Richard O'Brien's musical climaxes far too early, just after Frank seduces both Brad and Janet - a fault considerably alleviated by Wilkes's insolent repartee, large-limbed confidence, and ability to dominate the theatre with his sexual magnetism and a fruity voice that Robbie Williams saw worthy to include on his album Swing When You're Winning.

Williams left before the final bows to avoid photographers but he had stayed long enough to see Wilkes raise the show from a cheap echo of the 1975 film to a snarling piece of theatre about leather, lace and lust.

Venue: Queen's Theatre

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