It has been delighting, thrilling and - at times - shocking audiences for 50 years but as the Rocky Horror Show prepares to return to Manchester it’s showing no signs of ageing whatsoever.

For Joe Allen who plays both Eddie and Dr Scott in the riotous musical, this will be his fourth visit to Manchester with the show.

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“It’s a total joy to be part of this show,” he said. “We have such a talented company and I’d be surprised if there have been many better productions than this in the past. I think it’s in such good shape because we enjoy it so much.”

Created by Richard O’Brien, the Rocky Horror Show is based around a stranded young couple who seek refuge in the home of the mysterious Dr Frank’n’Furter.

It has achieved cult status which other shows have tried to emulate but have never succeeded.

The Bolton News: Get set to get naughty! Picture: David Freeman

“I think the show’s success for so long is down to an amalgamation of things,” said Joe. “The songs are iconic then the fact that people can actually join in as they do is very particular to Rocky Horror. I can’t think of another show where you really are an extra member of the cast.”

Many audience members arrive at the theatre in costumes equal to if not more lavish than those worn by characters on stage. And shout outs are almost positively encouraged.

“Some people come and watch the show so regularly I genuinely think of them as being in the company,” said Joe. “They effectively have lines. If I see their face I know the shout out that they are going to do so I’ll leave space for it. The regulars all have their favourite lines that they like to do.”

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At a time when theatres are having to deal with rowdy audience members disrupting performances with their behaviour, Rocky Horror is the exception.

“Hardcore fans know where the line is and know what we can accept as joining in and what ruins the show,” said Joe. “They actually help us to maintain that tricky balance.

“It’s a compromise between the cast and the audience which, as an actor, is a really interesting thing to be involved in.

The Bolton News: Joe Allen as Dr Scott with the cast of the Rocky Horror Show                                              (Picture: David Freeman)

“I remember seeing discussions on TV about musicals being disrupted and irate audience members complaining about being told not to sing along. I was shouting at the telly ‘if you you really want to shout out go and see the Rocky Horror Show’. We are used to dealing with it.”

Some of the more outrageous acts of audience participation have been controlled - a few years ago bags of rice were flung around the theatre during a wedding scene and water pistol battles in the front stalls were not unknown.

“Rocky Horror Show audiences understand their role in the performance,” said Eddie. “We can’t allow anything that is dangerous either to them or to the performers and we don’t want to have to stop the show and everybody gets that now.”

The audience’s connection to the show is one of the key factors behind its success.


“There is this huge level of fun,” said Joe. “You know the audience are having the best time; they are letting go and feeling freer than usual – that is the spirit of the show. It has that message - ‘don’t dream it, be it.’ and people are doing things with us they wouldn’t do in their daily lives.

“Many of them would not be the first at their work’s Christmas party to do the Time Warp but we allow them to let go in a very safe space and they love it.”

In many respects Rocky Horror was way ahead of its time with its message of inclusion.

“If it was written today I wonder if it would be criticised for being too woke,” laughed Joe, “but 50 years ago, it just was what it was. It had that punk ethos to it which I love.”

In playing both Eddie, basically a rock and roll failed science experiment and Dr Scott, a government scientist, Joe is following in the footsteps of Meat Loaf who played both parts at different times.

“The first time we brought the show to Manchester was the night that Meat Loaf passed away,” said Joe. “When I was let out of the freezer as Eddie (spoiler alert) the audience went so wild we had to stop the show. We held the band and just let them cheer and clap for Meat Loaf.

“Then when we launched into the song, Whatever Happened to Saturday Night, as a performer I’ve got to say that was one of the three greatest moments on stage ever. It was just electric.”

Feeling like a rock star every night is one of the reasons Joe loves the show.

“Some people love this show and yet they don’t like musicals which is cool,” he said. “It just has something which draws people in.”

The Manchester dates are part of the final leg of the 50th anniversary tour which ends at The Lido in Paris.

“After that I’ll be hanging up my leather jacket,” said Joe. “Then it’s back to the uncertain life as an actor. I’d like to do something really different.

“I went from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the West End to the Royal Shakespeare Company before I got this role and the last thing I did was a live musical version of The Grinch for NBC in America where I played a Who from Whoville which is about as far removed from the stockings and suspenders of Rocky Horror as you can get.

“But being part of Rocky Horror is being part of a family where people do come back even if it’s for a week or two.

“So in future if they needed an Eddie for a week it’s not something you’d turn down. It’s not every day you get the chance to be a rock star.”

Rocky Horror Show, Manchester Opera House, Tuesday, January 23 to Sunday, January 28. Details from