The Richard O'Brien Crusade



The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Sanity for Today

Cosmos Factory

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Rocky Horror

By Michael Billington

From the Guardian

Yesterday's kitsch has become today's avant-garde. Anything way-in in the thirties seems way-out in the seventies. And for proof you need only turn to Richard O'Brien's musical fantasy "The Rocky Horror Show" at the Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court, which is saturated in old celluloid: in particular Karloff's "Frankenstein" and stair-creaking creepies like "The Old Dark House". Even the theatre seats have the faded plush of past odeons, and you are piloted towards them by masked ushers.

Normally I find camp exploitations of old movies highly resistable because they imply a wholly unjustified feeling of cultural superiority. But this show won me over entirely. It achieves the rare feat of being witty and erotic at the same time. Dealing with a couple of virginal innocents who find themselves trapped in a crazy-house run by a trans-sexual doctor, it accurately spoofs the strip-bubble classics of James Whale ("We'll pull out our aces when the time is right" says the spectacled hero cornered by lowering transvestite monsters) And the various sexual permutations and combinations, suggested by coupling silhouettes, have a gaudy mathematical intricacy.

Unlike Sam Shepard (to whom he owes much) O'Brien never suggests his blend of Sci-Fi and more iconography has any very serious purpose: "Don't dream it, be it" is the closest he gets to a theme. But, in compensation, he bounces the action along on a series of springy rock numbers and Jim Sharman's audience-enveloping production is a deft piece of Pop-Artaud. Tim Curry also gives a garishly Bowie-esque performance as the ambi-sextrous doctor, but for me the actor of the evening was Jonathan Adams as the Narrator: a bulky, heavy jowled Kissinger-like figure who enters into the rock numbers with the stately aplomb of a dowager duchess doing a strip.

The Richard O'Brien Crusade est. 1996