Oh yes, I was a Rocky Horror Show virgin before last night. I’d seen the movie many years ago but had never had the experience of witnessing the spectacle in the flesh. And it’s not my flesh I’m referring to. I, in my demure full-length black pants, long top and faux-leather jacket was no competition for the sexually charged, fishnet and suspender clad cast of the show. They were young, they were hot and they left me pondering sexuality and social norms for hours.
Just as well there was so much going on in front of me because seated directly behind were four men in fishnets and miniskirts who as they sat down with legs apart were very clear: “You DON’T want to be turning around right now!”
The story itself is devastatingly bizarre. It’s not particularly the plot that is strange for it’s roughly based on every science-fiction film ever created, but I cannot fathom how Richard O’Brien came up with such a complex set of characters.
In short, two squeaky-clean kids, Brad Majors and his fiancée Janet Weiss pop a tyre during a storm and are forced to walk to seek help. They chance upon the home of Dr Frank-N-Furter, which the peculiar butler Riff Raff encourages them to enter. Inside, the cross-dressing, devious monster Frank is about to unleash his latest sex toy, Rocky Horror, who has half a brain but a rippling body. Brad and Janet are taken for a journey of sexual liberation where, amongst other things, infidelity and homosexuality take place, culminating in a lascivious orgy between earthlings and extra-terrestrials. As they chant, “Don’t dream it – be it!” one can’t help but wonder what message O’Brien was hoping to send when he wrote the play more than 30 years ago. Was it a message to embolden the sexual revolution of the 70’s from a self-confessed bisexual? Was it a message to say, “It’s OK to be swingers, it’s OK to give in to carnal desires.”? Or is it about accepting the choices of people who have a sexual orientation different to our own? I still don’t know.
Frank-N-Furter (played by Juan Jackson) was slightly less commanding than in previous shows – or so I was told by people who had seen the show before. But what he may have lacked in force was overshadowed by his incredible voice and his powerful body. As a young, straight woman was it wrong to find myself attracted to a man in suspenders, fishnets, stilettos and makeup? Apparently not – I’m sure it’s what Richard O’Brien wanted me to feel. And I can’t help but wonder if Frank-N-Furter is based on O’Brien himself.
Aside from having the talented and eccentric creator as the Narrator, the casting highlights for me were Janet, played by the sweet-voiced Lucy Maunder and Riff Raff, executed perfectly by Kristian Lavercombe. The sets were visually captivating – I particularly liked the use of the ladders that were shifted around the stage. And I want to own the settee that Magenta slides into after her brief yet raunchy solo.
Audience participation was somewhat lacking but evidently it was just opening night shyness, for when the reprisal of Time Warp marked the end of the show, there were no holds barred for longtime fans – wandering hands and pelvic thrusts most certainly included.
The Rocky Horror Show is on at The Civic in Auckland until the 27th of November. Tickets are available from www.the-edge.co.nz. Subsequent shows will be held in Wellington and Christchurch in December.
Images courtesy of The Edge