The programme for this show is rather unusual. It contains photographs of the actors along with their CVs, as well as the names and CVs of the principal creatives. The cast is listed in order of appearance, and there are production credits. But that’s about it. No information is given about the show itself. There is not even a list of the songs and who sings them. The reason for this reticence only came to me later. The show is too well-known – at least to its expected audience – to bother with all that.
The Rocky Horror Show made its first appearance Upstairs at the Royal Court Theatre in 1973, with room for an audience of 68. It soon burgeoned into a “monster” hit, and was made into a successful movie in 1975. Frankenstein-like, it has been constantly revived ever since.
Spawned in the middle of the Glam Rock era (hence some of the costumes), it enthusiastically embraces themes of sexual liberation and gender fluidity which resonate even more strongly at the present time. As extolled in the opening scene by an usherette from an old-fashioned cinema, the show harks back to, and sends up, the classic horror movies of the Twenties and Thirties, as well as the science fiction ‘B’ movies of the Fifties and Sixties (before that decade became the Sexties).
Hence the basic plot about a conservative Middle American newly-wed couple innocently seeking shelter in a castle run by a mad transvestite scientist bent (indeed he is) on creating life. The denizens of the castle turn out to be aliens from outer space. No wonder the show achieved cult status! It was clear at last night’s performance that many, if not most, of the audience had seen it before, and were enjoying it all the more for its familiarity. It now boasts some conventional trappings.
Thus, a narrator appears on the stage from time to time, explaining to the audience the somewhat convoluted plot. She is interrupted by “call backs” from the audience, but puts the hecklers in their place. From the audience response to topical allusions about the present government, a betting man might hesitate to put his shirt on the Tories winning the next election. Many in the audience were also following the tradition of dressing up as spooky characters from the musical. They will certainly respond positively to the suggestion Let’s do the ‘time warp’ again – definitely the stand-out number in the show – and will come again the next time the show is in town.
For readers unfamiliar with all this, amid the spoofery there is some pretty good rock music and some pretty nifty dancing. You don’t have to understand everything that is going on to have a good night out. But probably best not to be conservative (with a big or a small ‘C’)!
- Book, Music and Lyrics by Richard O’Brien
- Director: Christopher Luscombe
- Choreographer: Nathan Wright
- Starring: Stephen Webb, Richard Meek and Haley Flaherty
- New Wimbledon Theatre, London
- Until: Saturday 26th November 2022
- Running time : 2 hours, including Interval
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