There is no doubt in my mind as to which theatre experience has affected me the most significantly: going to see The Rocky Horror Show for the first time with a friend in the summer of 2016. I was introduced to the joys of the film adaptation at around eight years old by my dad, and I adored it. I idolised Tim Curry’s Frank N Furter (the more age-inappropriate elements went over my head at the time), which meant I was actually quite cynical going to a live version – I was sure no-one could live up to Tim Curry’s portrayal, but I had heard that people always dressed up for Rocky Horror and had a fun time, so I reasoned that even thought whatever poor sod was attempting to fill Curry’s shoes must inevitably fail, it would be a fun night.
The show surpassed my expectations without breaking a sweat (figuratively… I think most of the cast and audience were sweating at some point in the evening, It’s a high energy show). Not everyone knew about the dressing up element, which my friend and I had fully committed to, so the start was a bit surreal. I was wearing fishnet tights, a corset, a net mini skirt and a sparkly black faux feather boa. The theatre lobby had a strange mix of people dressed similarly to me and elderly Kentish couples who had no idea what they were in for – and of course, several men dotted about wearing just shoes and tight gold briefs, à la Rocky himself. However, by the end of the show it seemed like everyone was dancing and singing along just the same.
The atmosphere of the show was absolutely infectious. We all got up and punched our way through the time warp, a huge group of people at the front heckled the Narrator mercilessly, and several people sat in the dress circle had playing cards ready to enthusiastically and dramatically toss down at those of us in the stalls when the lyrics ‘cards for sorrow, cards for pain’ was sung. I’d been to a couple of pantomimes as a child, but this was theatre as I’d never known it before. It showed me the incredible power and fun to be had in revisiting a popular production with new ideas; the Frank N Furter of the live show managed to incorporate a whip in a way Tim Curry never did that I very much appreciated. It was also a great demonstration of how creative theatre can be, using elements of the pantomime which traditionally is a little more kid-friendly, and combining that with just pure sex and phenomenal music.
I had never waited around a theatre after a performance hoping to meet the cast before, and I actually haven’t since – but after seeing this show my friend and I were desperate to meet the cast and tell them how much we had loved the performance. I think partly it was us trying to prolong the euphoric feeling of the show, but also it just felt so important that the cast know what an amazing job they had done. We didn’t manage to meet Frank N Furter, but we did get a picture with Rocky that I proudly displayed as my Facebook cover photo for a long time.
The Rocky Horror Show exploded into my life in electrifying jubilation, and I can’t wait to see it live again as soon as possible.
This is an instalment in the series ‘Plays That Made Me’ from theatre editor Georgie Dettmer in which writers celebrate and explore the live theatre that has remained with them to this day.