Adrian Edmondson, Andrew Ahern, Anthony Head, Anthony Stewart Head, Aresehole, Audience Participation, Ben Forster, Ben Kerr, Brad Majors, Columbia, David Badella, David Freeman, Dominic Andersen, Emma Bunton, Frank N Furter, Fun Menopause, Haley Flaherty, Hannah Malekzad, Jam and Jeruselem, Janet Weiss, Jayde Westaby, Kristian Lavercombe, Let there be lips, Little Nell, Magenta, Mel Geidroyc, Not Fans, Oakley Court, Once in a While, Patricia Quinn, Rachel Grundy, RHPS, Richard Meek, Richard O'Brien, Riff Raff, Ritz, Ritz O'Brien, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Rocky Horror Show, Rocky Horror Show Gala, Rocky Horror Show Live, Sal Piro, Shoutbacks, Slut, Somerset, Sophie Linder-Lee, Stephanie Freeman, Stephen Fry, Strode Live, Strode Theatre, Sweet Transvestite, Theatre Live, Tim Curry, Time Warp, Tony Head, Transylvania, Unconventional Conventionalists, Will Knights, Zero Tolerance
So I normally leave the blogging to my husband Seany Sloan but the events of last night need to come from a fan perspective and not from an observer.
Thursday 17th September was to be an historic day as it was a gala performance of The Rocky Horror Show, direct from London and beamed around the planet to thousands of cinema goers. Star narrators were to take their turn donning suspenders, stilettoes and uttering the ominous and foreboding lines written by Richard O’Brien over 40 years ago.
I have been a fan in the true sense of the word since my early teens and have seen the live show over 150 times and the picture show over 2,000, which pales in comparison to some other unconventional conventionalists.
Now living in rural Somerset, I took the bold decision not to dress up for the showing, something that wrenched at my core, would we be the only ones not clad in fishnets? Well I shouldn’t have worried. Strode Theatre was packed with the most unlikely RHS audience I have ever witnessed, for it was the Jam and Jerusalem brigade with their twinsets and pearls in attendance. I think the average age must have been well into the 70’s and whilst I am not ageist, Richard O’Brien himself is pushing 73, the demographic of the audience was not one you would expect to view Brad and Janet’s visit to the castle.
We took our seats for the pre-show presented by Mel Giedroyc, saw some familiar faces in David and Stephanie Freeman, the founders of the Timewarp fan club, who looked amazing and just as excited as I was at seeing the show. Then the Usherette took her place by the curtain and sang those first words “Michael Rennie was ill the day the earth stood still…” and we were off! I had expected a surprise or two during the evening and one of them was that Patricia Quinn would play the Usherette to open, she is the famous lips at the beginning of the picture show, however that was not to be (I can but dream). I was surprised at this stage as no shoutbacks were done during Science Fiction Double Feature and my heart sank a little, thinking those at the gala performance were told that there was to be no heckles during the performance. This happened during Dammit Janet too, although I myself couldn’t resist the reply on “she beat the other girls” and then suddenly the first Arsehole, Slut and Sig Heil was uttered, oh yes I knew then we were on for a good night.
Over at the Frankenstein Place came and went and we saw the first of Riff Raff, who has the 2nd biggest job in the play next to Frank N Furter, as he is always compared to the master himself and with O’Brien in attendance this job is significantly harder. You knew he was stood a few feet away in the wings willing the young protégé on. O’Brien is notorious about staying close to the stage during performances, keeping an eagle’s eye on the show.
This was also the first time that we saw the insanely good set changes, which flowed throughout the performance. Everything was precise and immaculately executed. The band was AWESOME as always.
And so, we arrived at the Time Warp, the most famous song to come out of the musical and encountered a most bizarre situation, which I have never experienced at any performance before. The handful of true fans that were in attendance got up, lead by myself I must admit (as if you should be sitting at such an historic point) I tried to coax more to join in but to no avail. We were then told to “sit down” by a rather obnoxious woman behind us, who apparently “loved the show”, “it was her absolute favourite” and she “didn’t want to dance”. Did we sit down? Did we Fuck! We continued to pelvic thrust at will. The fun killer even went to an usher, who told her if she didn’t like it she could move. I have never, ever experienced such blatant opposition to the key points within O’Briens’ masterpiece. Rocky is all inclusive, and in the immortal words, “Don’t dream it, be it”, it is the place where you can do and be anything that you want to. If we had a couple of hard core Queens with us they would have swatted her down with a tirade, which is what I wanted to do as she really should have been sat at home with a Horlicks and Miss Marple. I must admit this did throw a damper on the evening for me, as it was so offensive and stood for everything that Rocky doesn’t.
The interval came; we retrieved our drinks and headed outside for some air. While there we met a few fans, who were sat in the balcony and had been told by the people next to them to “shut up” and not to do any shoutbacks. Did the audience of Strode actually know what they had bought tickets to before they arrived or were they just out for their regular Thursday night at the theatre? There are virgins who go to Rocky, who don’t dress up and they either fall in love at that point or never return again. I feel like 99% of the audience last night had absolutely no idea what Rocky is, what it stands for or how insane the show is. They might have seen the picture show 40 years ago, when they had some fire in their belly but now those embers have died and an icy, empty core remains. To me it was like they had already gone through the fun menopause.
There was a 10 minute interview with O’Brien followed by one of Ana Matronic, from Scissor Sisters fame, who talked about being yourself, being open, doing what you want to and she highlighted the case of gay rights in Russia. This was part of the overall message as the gala was in aid of Amnesty International.
When it was time for Brad’s solo song, Once in a While, there were puzzled faces everywhere. What is this song? This isn’t in the film! Well no, it’s not in the Film as Barry Bostwick does not sing that well and it was easy enough to cut out as it didn’t alter the storyline.
Even during the encore of the Time Warp, Richard himself couldn’t get the stale Strode audience to join in, so I did feel a little better about my own failure in coaxing them.
I feel at this point I’ve skipped over how brilliant the whole cast and guest narrators were, including the delectable Tony Head, but I know this will be covered in minute detail from the fans who run Rocky based blogs. I’m asking myself some questions this morning and these are:
- Did you enjoy the show? Absolutely.
- Was it spoilt by a straight tight lipped audience? To some extents yes.
- Would I buy the DVD? Can’t wait, put my pre-order in please.
- Was it all it could have been? No, but you can’t please everybody in every way and my “wishlist” might not be the same as the next fan.
- What could have been done better? For me the big void in the performance was that there was no shoutbacks allowed during the songs (I’m assuming this is the case as there was only one, which David Bedella had to deal with and restarted the song). I’m guessing this is to do with a soundtrack being produced, which mitigates my feelings somewhat towards it.
Let there be Lips!