Welcome to Denton USA, a real okay town where you’ll find happy hearts and smiling faces obsessed with live reality television. The darling couple Brad and Janet – better known from The Rocky Horror Show – takes a shot at tackling their marital problems on air. Assuming that their greatest challenges are (sexual) boredom and Brad’s depression, they are taken by surprise when doctors Cosmo and Nation McKinley commit Brad to a medical programme. Janet is talked into broadcasting Brad’s treatment while being vamped up to be a star – or was it to be appealing to her husband again?
Shock Treatment is the flopped filmic “equal-sequel” to Rocky Horror, now adapted for the stage by Tom Crowley and Benji Sperring. It continues the trend of throwing an unsuspecting sweet couple into bizarre surroundings, inhabited by the weirdest imaginable characters. To enjoy this sort of play, an appreciation of the whacky and random is prerequisite. At the same time it is fascinatingly accessible and relevant with today’s obsession to share absolutely everything with the entire world via media. People corrupted by the promise of fame and an abundant narcissism (such as megalomaniacal Farley Flavours, played by Neighbours’ Mark Little), as well as sexual repression and liberation are not new topics to be explored in theatre, but indisputably there is no staging comparable to this grotesque extravaganza. It is common consensus that Shock Treatment is ignored if not despised by Rocky Horror lovers, but this production could turn the tables. Characters, storytelling and incoherencies have all been tightened and condensed into a still insane but somehow coherent, massively entertaining show that makes the audience care for the plight of all characters.
Inventive colour washes transform the costumes and clinical set design. Catchy, whimsical songs accompanied by a live band and delightful choreographies underscore character developments. And oh, the actors! It is impossible not to fall in love with every single one of them. To be honest, they flirt outrageously with their audience (who, by the way, are integrated as part of the show – this is live television after all!) so it is tough to keep a cool head, but they don’t fail to impress with their acting skills. Nic Lamont and Adam Rhys-Davies bring fantastic chemistry to the stage. Ben Kerr is almost missed when absent from action. Julie Atherton’s wonderful clear voice and seductive innocence is absolutely enchanting. Especially alluring are also “the Hapschatts” played by Mateo Oxley and Rosanna Hyland. Oxley, whose character is so funny yet so sad, instils a lot of charm into the production. He’s the secret star all others orbit around.
Shock Treatment is a must see musical impossible to be more critical about. Had someone offered, I’d have stayed for the second performance an hour later without hesitation.
Reviewed by Lisa Theresa Downey-Dent
Photo: Peter Langdown
Shock Treatment is playing at the Kings Head Theatre until 6 June 2015. Click here for tickets