Theatre review: Shock Treatment at the King’s Head

Shock Treatment

Shock Treatment - Credit: Archant

Dr Frank N. Furter’s return is anything but a horror show, says Caroline David.

It’s been 42 years since Brad and Janet Majors first joined Dr. Frank N. Furter in a night of wild shenanigans in The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s premiere at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs. With brilliant lyrics by The Rocky Horror’s writer Richard O’Brien and adapted from Jim Sharman’s book by Tom Crowley, this sequel sees the Majors catapulted into the moral vacuum of present-day reality TV.

Wholesome Janet and Brad turn up at a TV studio to take part in a live therapy show about couples in failing relationships: Brad [Ben Kerr] is unemployed while Janet [Julie Atherton] believes her career as a Senior Research Assistant is soaring. The couple’s erstwhile best friends, Ralph [Mateo Oxley] and Betty Hapschatt [Rosanna Hyland], host the show. Like the Majors, all is not well in the Hapshcatt’s marriage. Janet becomes the poster girl for media mogul Farley Flavours [Mark Little] while Brad is given electric shock treatment to ‘cure’ his depression. Soon, Janet strips off her A-line skirt to reveal a skimpy black dress, Ralph lustily pursues silver fox Mr Flavours and two bogus doctors attempt to crank up the pressure dial on the shock treatment machine. Betty denounces Flavours’ machinations but will Janet come back down to earth?

While the Rocky Horror’s storyline was equally absurd, the premise was clearer and stronger. Here the invented TV studio set-up tells us nothing we don’t already know about contemporary narcissism. Nor is Shock Treatment as sexually transgressive and the anarchy is more farcical than political. But it’s wonderfully entertaining. Benji Sperring’s gloriously camp satire is razor sharp: Atherton sizzles in the smoking ‘Looking for Fame,’ Oxley snarls his way through the defiant ‘Breaking Out’ and the ensemble’s encore of ‘Little Black Dress’ marks an intoxicating start to the King’s Head spring season.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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