The “crossed-dressed clairvoyants of Cambridge” (to use the words of Philip Franks’ Narrator) were out in full force yesterday evening as the raucous Rocky Horror Show returned to the Cambridge Arts Theatre.

Ore Oduba and Haley Flaherty as Brad and JanetShaun Webb with permission for Varsity

Richard O’Brien’s smash-hit musical has been surprising and titillating audiences around the world since 1973. Following the story of the innocent, newly-engaged Brad (Ore Oduba - winner of Strictly Come Dancing, 2016) and Janet (Haley Flaherty) as their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, Rocky Horror throws the unsuspecting couple, and its audience, into the path of the elusive Frank-N-Furter (Stephen Webb). What then ensues is nothing short of an erotic, supernatural pantomime with ample opportunities for audience participation.

Though certainly not for the faint-of-heart or prudish, Rocky Horror has nevertheless developed a significant cult-following. Many theatregoers committed heartily to the fancy dress tradition of the show, donning suspenders, fishnets and garters, as they merrily traipsed past astonished onlookers on Kings Parade towards the theatre.

“Webb’s whip-yielding Frank-N-Furter dominated the stage with his intensely flamboyant yet distinctively masculine performance”

Chrissy & William have been coming to see the show since the 70'sLotte Brundle with permission for Varsity
"The Vicky's" also dressed up for the showLotte Brundle with permission for Varsity
Christianne Friend was seeing the show for the 15th timeLotte Brundle with permission for Varsity

Known best for his dancing talents Oduba, to our dismay, seemed underused on the dance floor. His singing, however, was surprisingly strong and he gave a good performance as sexually-naive, straight-laced Brad Majors. His counterpart Flaherty also gave a convincing performance as conventional dewy-eyed Janet, but wasn’t truly allowed to shine until her liberating solo song in the second half. However, through no fault of their own, but perhaps due to the blandness of their characters, both Oduba’s and Flaherty’s performances paled in comparison when seen alongside Webb’s whip-yielding Frank-N-Furter, who dominated the stage with his intensely flamboyant yet distinctively masculine performance. His rendition of one of the musical’s biggest hits, “Sweet Transvestite” was standout, and was met with deafening applause from the audience. His range was astounding, effortlessly bouncing from the charismatic showmanship of the first half to a surprising emotional vulnerability in the second half.

Philip Franks stole the show, however, as the witty and well-spoken narrator, responding to the audience’s crass and belligerent heckles (a Rocky Horror tradition) with on-the-spot wisecracks, at times turning the performance into a one-man stand up show. When one particular heckle involving ‘fellatio’ came his way, effortlessly quipping back with “the unconventional toothbrush of Cambridge”, a comment that nearly made us spit out our G&T’s in surprised laughter.

Rocky Horror was far from horrific, however it must be noted that the although the first half, despite being ridiculous, makes sense – chaotic, yet with enough semblance of coherence so that we weren’t completely lost – during the second half of the show the plot descends into complete madness. As characters we grew to love in the first half were seemingly randomly vaporised out of existence by aliens who were only later introduced to the plot, we were left scratching our heads, finding it hard to decide whether the musical thrived on, or was let down by this. Ultimately we decided it only contributed to the general gleeful insanity of the show, particularly as the musicals original plot was not altered, but simply loyally performed by the evenings cast.

Not to get bogged down in the if’s and butts – of which there were many – Rocky Horror, despite its chaos was thoroughly enjoyable. A sexually-charged knees-up for the young and old alike (but not too young!) Rocky Horror received a standing ovation.

The technical side of the show was also to be applauded; the costume design was flawless with poofy skirts and feather bowers galore. The set, described by The Narrator as “a hunting lodge for rich weirdos” was suitably befitting for a Cambridge audience, and well designed.

All the hits in the first half had us singing along, with “Sweet Transvestite” and “Time Warp” being undeniably the most memorable. And, after what seemed to be one long, colourful innuendo, as we finally rose to applaud the cast we found that despite still scrambling for a semblance of meaning, we didn’t give it too much thought, as we (Josh) struggled delightedly to learn the “Time Warp” dance.

“We’d never seen more scantily-clad men in our lives”

From the raunchy to the downright ridiculous Rocky Horror had it all. We’d never seen more scantily-clad men in our lives, and left the theatre feeling buoyed by the brilliance and bizarreness of the show. During the musical, the character of Frank-n-Furter slyly remarked that “It’s not easy having a good time”, but Rocky Horror made it feel effortless.

The Rocky Horror Show is showing at The Cambridge Arts Theatre at 7:30pm from 20th-25th June