Fishnet tights, leather and wigs mean only one thing: the Rocky Horror Show is in town.

For decades, this gender bending , B-Movie-esque, rock’n’roll musical comedy has been has been one of the strangest, and firmly fabulous, productions in theatreland.

The show is a cult favourite amongst theatregoers and you only needed to look at the audience in New Theatre Oxford on Monday night to see that.

READ MORE: Pictures from The Rocky Horror Show at the New Theatre Oxford

This latest production of Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show stars actor, presenter and winner of Strictly Come Dancing Ore Oduba as Brad Majors.

Oxford Mail: Ore Oduba & Haley Flaherty. Picture: Shaun WebbOre Oduba & Haley Flaherty. Picture: Shaun Webb

Obuda was joined by Stephen Webb as Frank’n’Furter, Philip Franks as The Narrator and Haley Flaherty as Janet.

The show tells the story of two squeaky clean college kids – Brad and his fiancée Janet. When by a twist of fate, their car breaks down outside a creepy mansion whilst on their way to visit their former college professor, they meet the charismatic Dr Frank’n’Furter.

Fans of all ages were dolled up in lingerie, glittery suits and biker outfits in ode to their favourite characters, making the atmosphere before the show absolutely electric.

The thrill that was palatable across the auditorium and continued as the opening track ‘Science Fiction/Double Feature’ began.

The song is a tribute to the classic B-Movies of the 1950s and sets the tone for this wacky, self-referential musical:

‘Michael Rennie was ill the day the earth stood still

But he told us where we stand

And Flash Gordon was there in silver underwear

Claude Rains was the invisible man

Then something went wrong for Faye Wray and King Kong

They got caught in a celluloid jam

Then at a deadly pace it came from outer space

And this is how the message ran’

This song set off the most unique and enjoyable parts of Rocky Horror: audience participation.

Oxford Mail: Rocky Horror on stage. Picture: Shaun WebbRocky Horror on stage. Picture: Shaun Webb (Image: David Freeman)

As the opening number hit the chorus the everyone in the theatre whipped out their mobile phones, put the flash on and began to wave them in time with the music and sang along.

Although, the audience joining in with the show was not always as clean, shall we say, as this part. Unlike in other productions, it is taboo not to shout obscenities at the cast. Of course, that is the weird charm of Rocky Horror and the cast played up to several crude moments shouted by the Oxford audience, leaving them laughing and enthralled.

As well as this, the show has no qualms about breaking the fourth wall – making it almost a pantomime for adults.

One key moment, which the audience loved was this scene delivered by Philip Franks as he addressed the room:

The Narrator: I would like –

The Audience: You would, would you?

The Narrator: To take you on a strange journey –

The Audience: How strange was it?

The Narrator: Almost as strange as partygate at Downing Street!

Oxford Mail: Rocky Horror on stage. Picture: Shaun WebbRocky Horror on stage. Picture: Shaun Webb (Image: The Rocky Horror Show)

Another moment which, of course, sticks out is when the world famous ‘Time Warp’ started. The audience leapt to their feet and the joined in with the dancing and singing.

Perhaps, it was the fact that for so long audiences have been separated from the thrill of live theatre by the pandemic but the atmosphere was absolutely electric. The sheer fun of being able to join in on a moment of pure musical theatre joy with complete strangers was brilliant.

As the show got underway it was clear set designer Hugh Durrant knew what he was doing. The opening scene shows Brad and Janet in their car returning from a friend’s house and the car and background imagery had the simple charm of a village hall panto: flat 2D sets which look hand painted.

This simplicity of this set then makes way for an elaborate castle set up when Brad and Janet enter Frank’n’Furter’s place. The sudden development of the space emphasises the creative gothic-come-sci-fi mix of the set, helping it to feel totally unique and extravagant.

In terms of performance, particular praise must be paid to Obuda in his role as Brad.

He skilfully took on the role of out-of-his-depth Brad and made the bumbling, nerdy character his own. His version was fully likeable, hilarious and his performing talent was undeniable.

Obuda was confident in reacting to the audience’s crude shouts and made those moments all his own.

Oxford Mail: Ore Oduba as Brad Majors. Picture: Shaun WebbOre Oduba as Brad Majors. Picture: Shaun Webb

Much of the enjoyment of Rocky Horror comes from the very fact the audience are enjoying the show so much and actors feed off that energy. In many ways, it is incomparable to other theatrical experiences and, simply put, that is what makes it so fun.

For nearly 50 years Rocky Horror has thrilled, chilled and fulfilled audiences around the world, judging by the reaction from the Oxford crowd it will continue to do so for another 50 years.

The show is at the New Theatre Oxford until Saturday, January 29. 


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