Rocky Horror show at the Liverpool Empire

Posted on 22 October 2016
By Gareth Chadwick
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Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show came to the Liverpool Empire this week. Although its opening night was called off during the interval due to “sudden indisposition of a key member,” it resumed the following day with no issues.

It would have been a real shame if it hadn’t as it is performed with a remarkable level of proficiency. Other than a very short-lived technical issue with the mic during the opening number, there is very little here to fault.

As ever, the madcap transvestite Frank N Furter simply owns the stage whenever he’s on it. Even in the background of other characters’ songs, Liam Tamne is a constant delight, snapping between showstopping vocal performances and physical comedy like it’s in his blood.

Another standout is Haley Flaherty as Janet whose voice constantly raises the bar throughout.

This is not to diminish the rest of the cast’s performances. To the contrary, all of the cast are superb, it just so happens that Frank and Janet are standout performances standing above the already accomplished performances around them.

Audience interaction plays a big part in the comedy, as may be expected from Rocky Horror. In addition to what is very likely a majority of the audience being in fancy dress – armies of men in suspenders and corsets are expected and encouraged – those well versed in Rocky Horror will know just when a well-placed comment will garner not only laughter from the audience but a response from the actors on stage.

The Narrator, played by Steve Punt, is particularly skilled in this area, his sharp wit and delivery put to good use as he responds to the crowd. Even the sign language interpreter – stood to the right of the stage in lingerie, naturally – gets laughs from audience participation, naturally revolving around hesitation regarding signing a particularly naughty word.

Time Warp is, as always, the standout song that brings the whole audience to their feet to dance and sing along. It is immediately followed by another, Sweet Transvestite, Frank N Furter’s first and most memorable song. His presence on stage is unrivalled while he is introducing himself.

A live band plays the music from behind and above the stage, just visible to watchers. Not a note out of place, they perform admirably and really are the backbone of the production. There’s no pretending that the music isn’t the main draw of the Rocky Horror Show, everything else is just a glorious cherry on top of Richard O’Brien’s masterful songwriting.

This is a masterclass in performance that just barely misses flawless due to a single technical issue that was resolved as quickly as it appeared and an unforeseen circumstance blighting its opening night. It is truly hard to imagine ways in which the cast – or even another cast – could improve.

The Rocky Horror Show is at the Liverpool Empire until Saturday 22nd October. See here for future venues (including Manchester Opera House) and to book tickets.

PurpleRevolver rating – 4/5