The Richard O'Brien Crusade



The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Sanity for Today

Cosmos Factory

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Highly Satirical, Frankenstein takes on a new bent.

By Naseem Khan

From the Evening Standard, June 26 1973

THE FIRST NIGHT of The Rocky Horror Show at the Theatre Upstairs was marked by thunder, lightning and torrential rain. Strictly speaking, the Royal Court should feel indebted to God for those aptly sinister off-stage noises- unless they were intended as signs of divine disapproval at a show of joyful sexual irreverence.

"Don't dream it, do it", goes one of the show's lyrics. And indeed the cast does it all: all ways, all combinations- joyfully, satirically and musically. The Rocky Horror Show takes you on a trip and leaves your libido to look after itself.

It starts the minute you enter the Theatre Upstairs. You thought you were going to the theatre? Wrong. What you are in is a rather seedy cinema. Large screen before you, rows of sagging red seats, ushers (though with strangely fixed grins) lighting your way. "The Sloane Cinema", says a large placard "regrets the inconvenience caused to patrons during renovations. Modern 3-screen cinema will open shortly"

It's the cinema that provides The Rocky Horror Show with it's references- nostalgic, affectionate references to the banal giants and the simple life they showed.

Brad and Janet are two nice straight American kids marooned on a lonely road by a burst tyre. Following a handy light coming from the Frankenstein Place, they find themselves embroiled in a bizarre skullduggery. Sinister servants introduce them to the Doctor. But it's no Frankenstein that Mary Shelley would have recognised. This one is a transvestite, dumped on Earth from the planet of Transexual in the galaxy of Transylvania. He/she is bent on creating the perfect youth, and, it so happens, that that night is unveiling night. (A discarded model, rock'n'roll style, is kept in the icebox)

More shocks face the young couple from the randy Frankie and his staff, all designed to give them "sensual daydreams to treasure forever". But in the tradition of the best old movies, tables are turned, the outsider startles the field, and it all ends in a trans-sexual freakout. Even the gimlet eyed government investigator kicks his fishnet legs from his wheelchair like a liberated lamb.

Jim Sharman has staged this great spoof opera with bold imagination. The cast swings from the ceiling, leaps along catwalks, tumbles down ramps, hitting you with songs that range from mock country and western to good rock. And if there were a female version of the Oscar, Tim Curry should get it for his performance of the kinky doctor. Elegant, disdainful, he stalks through the action in impeccable corset and high-heeled shoes.

The script, by Richard O'Brien (who also wrote the music and lyrics) has a sure ear for the homely banalities. "I made you, and I can break you" hisses Frankie at the mutinous Rocky. The mixture of elements- movies, pop, sci-fi, will undoubtedly remind people of Sam Shepard. But it's different. Shepard comments through his material: O'Brien has created a satirical and affectionate send-up that, unlike Rocky, remains well within control.

The Richard O'Brien Crusade est. 1996