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The Rocky Horror Show

Theatre Upstairs

By Irving Waddle


Considering it's parasite appetite for other expiremental American forms, the British underground has been curiously resistant to camp theatre. Periodic transantlantic consignments of Rosalyn Drexler, Charles Ludham, and Sam Shepard have been smuggled in; but The Rocky Horror Show seems to be the first home-grown specimen.

Book, music, and lyrics are by Richard O'Brien, and they might have prompted Shepard's remark, "Rock and Roll will eat you alive". This is theatre made out of the rawest and crudest ingredients, and forming a charge, strong enough to obliterate anything standing in it's track. The drug metaphor is inescapable. Forget about values or attitudes, or human relationships. The things is there simply to bend your mind for 90 minutes: pulping elements from Science Fiction, and the Dracula myth, bondage and rubberwear magazines, and rock music into jaded spectator's latest dramatic aphrodisiac.

The point about camp, is that it looks vicious and is in fact, harmless. It consists of taking elements which once conveyed violence and danger, and converting them into decoration. The Rocky Horror Show, therefore, needs to carry no health warnings. Like other examples of it's kind, it burns itself only during performance, giving you little to take away and remember.

Spectators are led into red-plush cinema seats by a bevy of masked ghouls who then unveil a female figure who emerges as a singing usherette, handing out free goodies and heralding the big double feature. Cut to the (presumably) the film of Brad and Janet, a wholesome young couple driving through a thunderstorm to visit a friend. Cut, again, to a portentous narrator who tells us that they are not going to get there. Punctured during a flash of lightning the bedraggled pair stumble into the clutch of Frank-n-Furter, a Transylvanian Transsexual demon-doctor who devotes the night to bending these two innocents into somewhat different shapes.

From this point practically everyone goes into fish-net stocking and padded crotches, not excepting Rocky Horror himself, the latest monster to trundle off Frank's laboratory bench, who makes it with Janet on closed circuit television (after she and her fiance have both been had by the boss who seduces them with identical dialogue). In Jim Sharman's production the action overflows the diminutive stage and along the platforms through the house, through the lurid laboratory, and along the gantry of the above (where the luckless couple are finally transported to another planet)

Soberly described it sounds pretty rough. In performance the brutalities come over as a prolonged joke, especially when members of the company step out of line enough to register normal human emotions, as where the chief ghoul turns on his master with a laser gun, vindictively remarking "he never liked me".

This part is played by the author, still in the guise of the hump-backed cadaverous weirdo he recently presented in Shepard's Unseen Hand (also at this address). The girls, preserving rigid grimaces over their flailing limbs, are led by Patricia Quinn; and the queenly Frank, who puts on clothes to achieve effects others make by taking them off, is played with Jagger-like excess by Tim Curry.

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The Richard O'Brien Crusade est. 1996