REVIEW: The Rocky Horror Picture Show at The Royal Albert Hall

Last night I was lucky enough to go to watch the screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the gorgeous Royal Albert Hall. It was like going to the cinema in the most elaborate screening room on earth!

Pre-show at The Royal Albert Hall - the red wig was my attempt at dressing up

First, a bit of background: I loved the film when I was a child. I think I was about six or seven when I first saw it, which says a lot about my childhood, but I adored it: people with lots of make-up, sparkly costumes, singing and dancing and a swimming pool at the end, what's not to love? I wanted to grow up and be Columbia with her glitter-covered tap shoes and top hat!
As I grew older I began to understand more about the context of the film and fell out with it entirely: everything from the dinner party scene onwards just freaked me out. Now I'm (allegedly) an adult, I can hold these two conflicting ideas in my head and enjoy the film for what it is.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show has a cult following: in America screenings attract queues of fancy-dressed patrons, and there are actions or cat calls at certain cues in the film: during the song "There's a Light", audience members traditionally hold up lighters, although in this modern world (and in a Grade II Listed building!) phone cameras were substituted! Actors appear on stage throughout the screening, acting or dancing along with the film, and set pieces are played out for the audiences amusement.

So I was actually a little bit disappointed with the event last night: the bar was suspiciously devoid of people in character dress (the whole evening I saw three or four Frank-N-Furter's, five Magentas and a handful of Columbia's), although there was one gentleman at the front in a fully green and blue sequinned jacket with 'lips' picked out in red and LED lights sewn through, which was rather spectacular!

The lights dimmed and a voice-of-god welcomed us to the screening and the venue, reminding us that while we are wished a good evening to please be aware that the Albert Hall is a listed building and to take due care and attention during the proceedings! We were warmed up by Patricia Quinn who played Magenta in the film, which I have to say bemused me a little bit: a rambling story about Prince Charles, something to do with a Birthday card, a greeting to someone in one of the boxes, then getting the audience to chant the famous line "Don't Dream It, Be It." And the film started.

Patricia Quinn on stage

And that's all it was: the film. No actors or dancers, no interaction. I wasn't sure what to expect but having seen events at the Royal Albert Hall previously such as The Lord Of The Rings screening, accompanied by a full orchestra, I definitely expected more than just the film. The audience provided some entertainment by pitching in at the right times:

BRAD: Hi, I'm Brad Majors
BRAD: And this is my fiancee, Janet Weiss
(every single time the names were said in full!)

...and dancing and singing along the The Time Warp, obviously. It was a fun night, the film is great (Tim Curry is completely iconic as the sexual, uninhibited, deranged Dr. Frank-N-Furter, and I still want to be Columbia) but I definitely thought, given the cult following, that it would have been more raucous, or, yes, that there would have been something going on on the very large stage in front of the screen as well.

Audience involvement - There's A Light Over At The Frankenstein Place

Watching the film in this way made me wonder why it is such a cult classic: it's actually a very depressing film in the end.

"And crawling on the planet's face, some insects called the Human Race. Lost in time, lost in space and meaning." - the last line of the film!

The songs and quotes have become part of popular culture; we all remember doing the Time Warp dance at the school disco or at family weddings, which is actually rather disturbing when you think about the film it comes from!

Discussing this with my friend afterwards, she suggested a lot of it had to do with the time it was released: it's an American film, she said, and in America every girl was a Janet and every boy was a Brad. That's why they're stereotypes of the archetypal all-American kids, all sweet and innocent. The Rocky Horror Picture Show gave a voice to the 'freaks' and suddenly they had the power over the wholesome kids-next-door. The film shows Brad and Janet irreparably changed and corrupted after their exposure to sexuality and alternative lifestyles and for young people who had been told that these lifestyles or desires were morally reprehensible, it must have been unimaginably liberating to see this played out and celebrated on screen.

It's a cult film that draws on many cult cliche's, the Frankenstein monster, creating life; Aliens, there's a King Kong tribute section, there are lasers and spaceships and spooky houses. It celebrates the B-Movie and adds kink and catchy songs into a heady mix. The film's message: Don't Dream It, Be It, is a mantra for pursuing your passion, whether that's a career, love, or creating a monster man in your personal laboratory. It allows people to come together to sing, dance and exist in a state of union and celebrate being maybe not completely normal.

On the other hand, she said, maybe it's just that people like getting dressed up in fishnet tights for a night.


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