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Shock Treatment

Mark Little (centre) in Shock Treatment at the King's Head Theatre, London. Photo: Peter Langdown Mark Little (centre) in Shock Treatment at the King's Head Theatre, London. Photo: Peter Langdown
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The 1981 movie Shock Treatment is a follow-up of sorts to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the celluloid incarnation of Richard O’Brien’s cult sci-fi/B horror movie tribute. Using some of the same characters and casting several of the same actors, O’Brien’s attempt to recreate the success of the original proved a commercial failure.

This much anticipated stage adaptation by O’Brien and Tom Crowley, takes a knife to many of the peripheral characters to reveal the creator’s prescient vision of the rise of reality TV and the domination of corporate greed. Like The Rocky Horror Show before, the comedy and storyline of Shock Treatment reflect O’Brien’s own unconventional views on self-expression tinged with an evident talent for social satire.

Richard Hartley’s revised rock’n’roll score translates effectively to the stage, and while most of the numbers appear fresh and exciting, the Rocky Horror blueprint is clearly visible at times. Tim Shortall’s slick, whiter-than-white set glows ominously and Tarquin’s impressive production is a success, let down only by consistently poor sound balance throughout.

Nic Lamont and Adam Rhys-Davies are marvellous value as the seedy, surgical brother and sister act, Nation and Cosmo McKinley, perfectly counterpointed by Mateo Oxley and Rosanna Hyland’s suntanned, superficial Ralph and Betty Hapschatt. Mark Little may embrace the spirit of Farley Flavors but unfortunately he is no singer, which sadly undermines his performance. Thankfully musical theatre royalty is present in the shape of Julie Atherton and her interpretation of Janet Majors is one of the highlights of the show, reinforcing her status as one of this country’s most versatile musical theatre stars.

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Richard O’Brien’s talent for subversive social satire thrives in this lively adaptation conceived for the small stage