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Theatre Firsts: The Rocky Horror Show

By Lauren Ball

Hi, I'm Lauren, and until yesterday I was a Rocky Horror virgin. As a self-confessed musical theatre addict and a former cabaret performer with a stockpile of wigs and fishnets, I've faced much incredulity for it. "I've seen the film," I cry, "like, loads of times! We used to watch it at sleepovers! I know all the songs!" But I know it's not the same thing. There's a whole world I'm missing out on and they judge, oh how they judge. A special pity judge, with their wide eyes and sympathetic head tilts. It's worse than that time I let slip that I hadn't seen The Sound of Music. (NB: I have now seen The Sound of Music.) But enough about Maria; this is the story of my first time with Frank.

I was pretty psyched that my Rocky debut would be at the gala performance, broadcast live to cinemas across the world and featuring Stephen Fry, Emma Bunton, Anthony Head, Ade Edmondson and Mel Giedroyc as guest narrators, plus Richard O'Brien himself on stage. Actual Richard O'Brien and an actual Spice Girl and actual Giles from Buffy I mean COME ON this is such a great set-up. So I knew I couldn't do things by halves. 

Ingénues are still here for fancy dress.

My designated Rocky buddy was Ben, our Digital Marketing Manager, an ex-dancer and some-time drag queen who (hold onto your hats, kids) had also never seen the show. We're made for each other. We spent the night before digging deep into our wardrobes and WhatsApping costume options, then rocked up to the office on Thursday morning with bags full of feathers and sequins. I crimped my hair. We lined up lipsticks and picked the most ferocious shades. Ben sliced up a monochrome dress to make a new outfit like the Selina Kyle of SEO. And then suddenly, it was time. We joined forces with our Ticketing Operations team, and buoyed by our strength in numbers we set off, heels clacking on Charing Cross concrete.

You're lucky, he's lucky, I'm lucky, we're all lucky!

The Rocky Horror Show, it turns out, is great. It's frantic and funny and really, really weird. It's also very moving and has something to say if you listen closely, like Frank's mantra of Don't Dream It, Be It. Just because it sounds like a bad tattoo, doesn't mean it's not words to live by (and I could probably get on board with giving myself over to absolute pleasure, too). The cast are a well-oiled machine, all delivering stellar performances and having a ball while they're at it: I loved David Bedella's Frank, especially in his second act seduction mode, and Jayde Westaby was utterly compelling as Magenta. Jayde, I want your job. Just a heads up. I'm coming for you.

Bumped into Brad and Janet. Sweet kids. At the interval we began to lose focus.

I get why people are so crazy for Rocky. I knew about audience participation, about Brad Majors ("Asshole!") and Janet Weiss ("Slut!"), and I can Time Warp with the best of them, but I didn't know about the pure joy of being in amongst it. There's real community spirit in a theatre full of people shouting their non-scripted lines, and I am all admiration for those who struck out solo with their own jokes. Special mention to the guy front and centre for his perfectly timed "What's your favourite Lionel Richie song?" (Riff Raff: "Hello." You probably had to be there.) Last night's Picturehouse event was a box office smash, broadcast to over 600 cinemas in the UK and across Europe, and what a great way to keep the Rocky love alive. If you were there, I hope you sang along and threw rice at the screen. It's back on the road next year and I wanna go. Oh-ohhh-ohhhhh.

Tickets for the 2016 Rocky Horror Show UK tour are available here.