The Rocky Horror Show – Review – Leeds Grand Theatre
By Carol Plant, August 2019
Many years ago, I went to the cinema to watch a sing-along version of The Rocky Horror Show film. It was fun, so I made a promise to one day go and see the live show. It is, after all, one of musical theatre’s perennials – and a sort of rites of passage for any theatre lover.
And everyone knows Rocky Horror, right? Well, apparently not. We go for a discounted pre-theatre meal (30% off, thank you very much) and the young waitress asks to see the theatre ticket and innocently asks: “What are you going to see?” I look around, waving my hands over to the rest of the customers who are mainly dressed in Rocky Horror Show outfits. Surely it doesn’t need further explanation. “Oh,” she says, “I’ve never heard of it.”
As we approach The Grand, I’m having a whale of a time taking in those theatre-goers. I can hardly keep my eyes in my head – there’s a semi-naked man wearing gold hot pants and even two male theatre reviewers in the press bar wearing white coats, fishnets and blonde wigs and not much else!
As we enter the auditorium, the draped, ruched curtains are shut. The show starts bang on time – and I wish I’d brought my seat belt because, oh my lord, what a riotous ride we go on.
The stage resembles the inside of a Gothic mansion with a film reel suspended across the top. The orchestra are actually up in the reel on the top of the stage. I’ve never seen anything like. It works – and is like watching the unfurling of a 35 millimetre film.
Even though I’ve seen the film, I don’t really remember it. I just remember it was bonkers, good fun and didn’t make much sense. The stage show is quite similar. There is a plot. It is very loose. All the better because we are here to see the sights, rather than follow the plot.
Straight-laced Janet and Brad, newly engaged, get a flat tire. Janet is suitably sweet and innocent. Brad is holier than thou. The pair of innocents happen across a nearby castle, as you do, and are invited in by the strange inhabitants.
The cross dressing Frank N Furter, played by Duncan James of the 90s boy band Blue, is a delight dressed up in his corset, fishnets and platform high heels. His vocals are impressive and he appears to be loving it up on stage.
I did wonder what the hell was going on. I wondered what was in my complementary red wine. But again, what utterly bonkers fun!
The show has a cult following for good reason – the characters, the costumes, the songs, the dance. It’s not a night out to the theatre, it’s an evening out. If you aren’t sure if it’s your thing, just go see it for yourself. If you like to be entertained, if you like to have a laugh, and if you like to get out from the seats, and boogie along to a couple of songs, you won’t be disappointed.
“Will not tire”
The original production opened in June 1973, with Tim Curry as Frank N Further, who went on to play him in the film. I can see why it has endured all these years and been performed all over the world. Richard O’Brian called the show juvenile, which it certainly is. But what a delightful juvenile pantomime production for us adults to play along. What a way to switch off from everyday life.
I knew that the audience would participate, but I had no idea to the extent that they would. It really was like adult panto. Some of the theatre-goers knew the show word for word and were shouting out clever retorts to people on the stage. I could see why people just continue to watch the show year in, year out. The fans will not tire of it.
The Rocky Horror Show is exactly what you expect it to be – singing, dancing, cross dressing, loose plot, Gothic, Hammer Horror castle, spaceship!? It makes no sense. But it is a riot. You can’t help but sing along and get involved. Even the waitress would love it, I’m sure.
images: Johan Persson