Guilt-Filled Irish Have Fun With ‘Rocky Horror Show’
Frank ‘n Furter, the “sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania,” is alive and well and lurking in a darkened Dublin hall owned by the Roman Catholic Jesuit order.
“The Rocky Horror Show,” the camp musical that sends up Hollywood B-movies, has finally made it to the Irish capital via Britain, North America, Japan, Australia, Israel and Mexico.
And Frank ‘n Furter, the outrageous star of the show that mixes science fiction, Gothic horror, sex, drugs and rock and roll, shows no signs of relinquishing his passport.
Richard O’Brien’s 1973 stage musical, turned into a film that has become a cult midnight feature for outrageously dressed Rocky fans the world over who copy the film’s characters, will soon hit Eastern Europe, South Africa, Argentina and Brazil.
After 3,000 performances in London, the stage musical has now moved to the St. Francis Xavier Hall, tucked away on a dingy Dublin side street.
Fans, many dressed up in fishnet stockings, black leotards and surgical gloves--a la Frank ‘n Furter, the transvestite mad scientist played in the film by Tim Curry--are flocking to the show and shouting all the obligatory insults that give the musical its special audience-participation flavor.
They are handed 3-D glasses at the darkened entrance by attendants dressed as ghouls and are treated to a screening of “The Creature From the Black Lagoon.” The wine flows, the fans are well oiled, the show is ready to begin.
The producers have chosen an all-Irish cast, with classical actors reveling in the chance to let their hair down. Stephen Brennan, more used to the staid Irish national theater, camps it up outrageously as Frank ‘n Furter.
The lugubrious Alan Stanford revels in the role of the narrator, dressed in a Noel Coward smoking jacket and wisecracking with the audience, which shouts, “Boring!” every time he comes on.
What do the Jesuits think about their hall being given over to scenes of unbridled lust and sex, both hetero- and homosexual, in every available position?
“The Jesuits have no objections whatsoever,” said producer John Costigan.
“The audience is very yuppiefied, very middle-class and party-oriented. People dance in the aisles every night. It certainly hasn’t been sanitized for an Irish audience. Dublin’s huge transvestite population hasn’t manifested itself yet.”
Frank ‘n Furter certainly strikes a chord in this predominantly Catholic country, where sexual guilt is almost a national obsession.
When he sings, “There is no crime to giving yourself over to pleasure,” the audience roars back, “There is in Ireland.”
O’Brien, bemused by the continuing success of his musical, came to Dublin to see the latest production and gave his approval.
He reflected on why the musical had aged so well.
“Well, from day one it has attracted people who aren’t traditional theatergoers--and that’s got to be good.
“It has three major elements--sex, rock and roll and Gothic horror--not a bad threesome--and each has its own following. It also examines and unlocks old myths, and it was prophetic of punk--of Boy George, of Prince.”
Any regrets about the show? “I must admit that if I were writing it today, because of sexual disease, I’d be very careful about the sexual do-your-own-thing idea.”
In the United States, The Rocky Horror Picture Show Fan Club has 20,000 members who still flock on Saturday nights to see the film at midnight in 150 theaters nationwide.
Former Catholic theology teacher Sal Piro, listed in the Guinness Book of Records for having seen the film more than 1,400 times, puts out The Transylvanian fan magazine, organizes trivia quizzes and welcomes “virgins"--people seeing the film for the first time.
O’Brien, whose parents wanted him to be a New Zealand sheep farmer, is constantly in demand for cult Rocky Horror reunions.
Clearly the show must go on and on and on, and O’Brien, reflecting on the day long ago when it all began, said, “I was out of luck, out of work, out of money and out to lunch.
“Why, in those days I didn’t even own a second pair of stilettoes, nor was I aware of the fact that eggs and chips (french fries) were not served in top restaurants. Gosh.”