Basques and fishnets, transexuality and sexual fluidity, both on stage and off. That’s what you get when you go to The Rocky Horror Show. Never has a show been so inclusive, with cast and audience united through a love of fun and demonstrative dressing. And that’s what makes The Rocky Horror Show unique and timeless. Many of the audience, old and young, were dressed outrageously, some of them queuing to enter the auditorium in just a bra and slip or basque and fishnets – male and female alike. This show is still as liberating and levelling as it was when it first hit the stage. The classic ‘Time Warp’ really sums it all up.
If you’ve managed to miss the whole phenomenon for the last 40 years, and that includes putting your hands in the air and doing the pelvic thrust to the Time Warp at any party, then don’t worry, you can still catch up. ‘Rocky’ is the unique brainchild of theatrical legend Richard O’Brien, who, oddly, began his career in 1965 riding horses in British-made movies. It’s a show that will force you to stand up and join in, by either dancing or engaging in fine-tuned heckling with the narrator and events on stage.
The story is simple – well, sort of. Young, innocent couple Brad and Janet are stranded in a storm and seek refuge in the castle of Frank N Furter, coincidentally on the night of the revelation of Frank’s experiment – the creation of the human creature ‘Rocky’. Rocky’s appearance causes quite a stir in the castle, and takes the story on a surprising rollercoaster of comedy horror, overt sexuality, rock ‘n’ roll and science fiction.
Singing, dancing and acting performances were gloriously strong throughout. Riff Raff has the best commanding vocals, but Frank N Furter steals all the scenes with his mesmerising stage presence. The Narrator, played by well known TV and theatre face Norman Pace, wittily holds and parries the heckling with quick and current repartees, adding new laughs and jokes, to the delight of the audience. Rocky’s physical presence was perfect, highlighted by an admirable set of press-ups during one of the numbers.
Although the set may have lacked the stunning impact of the costumes and musical numbers, the lighting and live music certainly make up for it. The lighting was not only used to maximise the dramatic moments on stage, but also to engage the audience, frequently swooping across the stalls and sharing the vibrant energy throughout the theatre. I was pleased that there was a live band, rather than a soundtrack, as the music too resounded throughout the theatre, the vibrations adding spine-tingling moments to the performance.
I was surprised to see a lot of empty seats in the auditorium on the opening night, but the die-hard, enthusiastic fans certainly made up for it. This show is a cult classic, and one that is as funny, brilliant and moving as it was when it first hit audiences all those years ago.
[Amanda Briggs June 2016]