Rocky Horror Show

Time to lock up your sons, daughters and poodles - Frank ‘N’ Furter, the most fabulous extraterrestrial transvestite in history, is back at the Grand Opera House


It is a dark and stormy night when The Rocky Horror Show opens in the Grand Opera House, but like Brad (asshole!) and Janet (slut!) the Belfast fans aren't going to let something like a little rain spoil their night out. Damp and dripping they might be, but they make it into the theatre in time for The Usherette’s opening number 'Science Fiction/Double Feature'.

The Rocky Horror Show is about a perfectly ordinary young couple that, after their car breaks down, end up spending the night in a castle with a sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania.

It is possible to argue about the play's socially and sexually transgressive themes and discuss similarities between Frank ‘N’ Furter and the genderqueer ancient Greek seer Tiresias – among other things he was turned into a woman by the Greek gods for killing two copulating snakes. Or you can sit back, enjoy the pretty men and women in scanty undies and listen to the quite astounding rock opera soundtrack.

The interesting thing about The Rocky Horror Show is that although it started life as the cult classic movie of nearly the same name, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, it has evolved into a truly interactive piece of theatre. Audiences aren’t just expected but encouraged to shout out their own scurrilous, frequently salacious amendments to the dialogue. Rocky Horror virgins who want to join in the catcalls can find scripts online with the most frequent interjections marked for their benefit.

Opening night at the Grand Opera House is a little too light on experienced fans to get the full effect, but there are a loyal contingent in front shouting out their contributions. ‘It was as if Janet were riding a giant tsunami...' leers the narrator. The audience are less circumspect. 'Rooster!'  they yell, or something like that.

Christopher Biggins, who plays the Narrator/Criminologist takes most of the interruptions in his stride, either ignoring or incorporating them into his spiel. The one time he does lose his place in the script it takes him two tries to find where he’s gone wrong he is laughing so much. It is hard to tell who is more delighted, him or the audience. Mistakes are all part of the experience.

The rest of the cast aren’t quite as interactive - although Frank ‘N’ Furter (David Bedella) does toss the occasional arch wink or strut the audiences way - but they are fun to watch.

Richard Meek and Haley Flaherty give Brad (asshole!) and Janet (slut!), who are fairly flat characters on purpose, a certain charm and spunk. Bedella as Frank ‘N’ Furter is disturbingly attractive and a dead-ringer for Tim Curry, who played Frank in the movie. Dominic Tribuzio as Rocky and Kara Lane as Magenta both infuse their roles with character and pathos. And Ceris Hine as Columbia, with her candy-floss wig and little girl squeak, is entertainingly adorable, like a rag-doll gone bad.

The set manages to combine the corny with the gothic to create a genuinely elegant aesthetic. The set pieces sliding on from the sides only enhance the sense of the claustrophobic and labyrinthine trap that Brad (asshole!) and Janet (slut!) have found their way into. The broken ladders that appear and disappear when needed also serve to heighten the atmosphere, with the goth phantoms who traipse after the cast draping themselves at odd angles over the rungs.

And the soundtrack, of course. It's iconic. Most people have heard 'Time Warp' at one time or another and 'Sweet Transvestite' is a perennial favourite. At the end of the production half the audience get to their feet to join the cast in putting their hands on their hips and pulling their knees in tight to do the 'Time Warp' again.

Just remember that once you’ve tasted forbidden fruit (Frank's rooster!) there might be no going back.

The Rocky Horror Show runs in the Grand Opera House until April 3.

Tammy Moore