Confession first: Before tonight I had not seen Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show on stage or watched the film. I knew that the Time Warp was a thing, “Dammit, Janet” a catchphrase and that audiences brought water pistols, rice and toilet paper to performances everywhere. Hopefully, all these little myths and rituals will now make sense.
The 10-minute walk from the train station to the New Wimbledon Theatre leaves no doubt: The show’s cult following owns the high street this Saturday night! We are surrounded by black wigs, sequins, fishnets, stockings, big pearl necklaces, maid costumes, underskirts, party hats, leather jackets and shiny DocMartens. To an outsider they all seem to know each other, and we hear several regrets of this being the last night of the one-week tour stop in Wimbledon before the theatre company moves on.
Inside the historic theatre people wear even less – fetish gear is accepted but, dear, (I think) it is also mid-February. A list of prohibited items is prominently placed in the foyer so no rice, confetti or water pistols, not even lighters. Of course, the disciples in the front rows have updated their party kits to the theatre goers’ etiquette of 2019 and present battery-run fairy light chains and inflatables when catching their favourite keywords. There is also an unofficial competition of heckles going on, some well-established routines by a choir of audience members, others more improvised. Narrator Dom Joly reads out from a big book and I wonder if it is full of collected responses, but the hecklers do get him in the end. By chance we met him in the pub just before the show and agreed on shouting out “Squirrel” as a nod to his Trigger Happy TV show but due to the distance to the stage we leave that to Twitter.
When I booked our tickets in the upper circle, the website warned not to choose these seats if you suffer from vertigo and yes, we are quite high up but still catch everything on stage – brilliant, I’ll make a note of this for my next visit. Not every lyric sung reaches us from the stage to be clearly understood but tonight this does not matter as the enthusiastic audience sings along the whole time, word for word.
The story follows an all-American 1950s, newly engaged couple who find themselves in a spooky castle after their car breaks down. They stumble upon a group of glam rock goths, led by questionable scientist Frank-n-Furter, whose kinky sexual appetite quickly strips them of their prissy rock ’n roll clothes. Then there is a trash horror chainsaw murder on stage, crazy doctors and plenty of leopard print underwear followed by a bubble gum sci-fi finale with laser guns.
Malicious gossip claims the Rocky Horror Show is outdated and a relic from an age (the 1970s) when men cross-dressing and wearing loud makeup were still acts to shock brave citizens with. But tonight’s performance is as good as sold out and I have not laughed like this all year. And yes, next time I’ll dress up – promise!
Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show continues its UK tour.
**** out of 5 stars
We paid £23 per ticket plus fees for seats D3 and D4 in the upper circle
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