The Rocky Horror Picture Show at The Bristol Hippodrome

Tonight was a little unusual in that I walked around Bristol dressed in pyjamas and Micky Mouse ears. I didn’t stand out at all though, being surrounded by people of all genders dressed in an assortment of clothing with a strong emphasis on PVC, basques and stockings.

I hardly need to say what show was on tonight at the Hippodrome: The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Most of us are already familiar with it to one extent or another. I have to confess that I was a Rocky Horror virgin, having never been to the stage show before. I’m a huge fan of the film, know all the words off by heart, but somehow have never managed to see it live before. I was a little bit hesitant because of the whole dressing up thing. I haven’t been the sort of person who’d parade around in their underwear in public for around 25 years, so the pyjamas were my compromise. I’d have been fine going in normal clothes though, about half the crowd did. It would have been a shame if we all had though, because the abundance of interesting outfits definitely enhance the experience.

I left tonight’s show feeling uplifted and entertained and all the other things you’d expect. I sang along, danced a bit, enjoyed the shenanigans on stage. There were a couple of technical issues with microphones at the end, and I suspect the sound wasn’t quite how it should be at the beginning as I found Janet’s voice almost painful in the first couple of songs. Overall though it was a fine cast and a fast-moving, funny and very rude show. It took me a while to warm to Liam Tamne’s Frank-N-Furter, but by the end I loved him. He was lascivious, filthy, opportunistic, exhibitionist and sang beautifully. He also rocks the basque and stockings look. I also loved Brad (Richard Meek) and his rendition of ‘Once in a While’ was perfect. Diana Vickers as Janet was hugely irritating at first, as should be, but like Frank-N-Furter grew on me. Kay Murphy’s Magenta conveyed the lecherousness that pervades the whole show with style, while Dominic Anderson as Rocky impressed the crowd with some very fancy press-ups and displays of strength.

Norman Pace was perfect as the narrator. There was a lot of crowd involvement, with heckling and suggestions for alternative lines, and he fielded them as you would expect an experienced stand-up comic to, but still managing to come back to the script smoothly each time.

The music was great, of course, with the band sat above the stage and only partially in view. I liked the costumes, which naturally tended towards the red, black and laced-up of course. It’s a great show, and I’m glad I’ve got to see it. I’d definitely go again, but probably more for the atmosphere and the familiarity than for the quality of the production. It’s like revisiting an old friend, cosy and warm and a little bit risque. Which is a funny thing, because as my friend Jayne who accompanied me last night says, ‘think about the changes in the politics since the play was written. It is only forty years ago that an openly bisexual, transvestite man seducing a young couple was considered shocking.’ She adds ‘Given that we live in an age where the Pride organisation has global market value and gay rights is less about civil liberties and more about corporate sponsorship, you could argue that gender and sexual politics has moved on enough to make the Rocky Horror Picture show a relic from a more innocent age. At the moment there is a global movement making it more acceptable to be a trans-gendered person and let us not forget that stand ups like Eddie Izzard and Andrew O’Neil are still pushing those boundaries with being comedy related to being openly trans. When Eddie Izzard first came out, it was a shock to see a man on a stage, dressed in a beautiful skirt and blouse, looking fantastic and making us laugh. These days, Eddie is talking about going into politics. Was it only thirty years ago that MPs were shamed for being caught in suspenders? So maybe the Rocky Horror Picture show is not as relevant as it once was, but it broke ground making those of us who are trans-gendered more open to inclusion in society in a way that “Tranny porn” really does not. As I sat in that crowd, feeling suddenly very alone as a trans person at an event that celebrates “my People”, I could have been easily pushed towards a pessimistic view of this play. Instead the opening bars of the Science Fiction song started and life was OK again.’

And I can’t argue with that. From the moment that the usherette opened her mouth, we were happy.

PLEASE NOTE: The recommended age for this show is 12+, but the content is of an adult nature. Our reviewer recommends exercising caution when taking under 16’s to this show. The show is on at The Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 23rd July

Review by Gin Gould, with comments from Jayne Hecate.

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