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
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
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.