Exeposé Arts + Lit online (1 March 2017)
Who’s a virgin here?” Frank N. Furter asked us. I grinned at my housemate, who already looked terrified. Even more so when our host gleefully announced: “We’re going to pop some cherries tonight!”
Don’t worry: things weren’t about to get X-rated. Well, probably not. See, at the Rocky Horror Picture Show, anyone who’s not seen the film before is automatically a “Virgin.” It’s not an insult. Not a loaded phrase. It’s just a fact of life.
Like the fact the audience was primed to shout “slut!” whenever Janet’s name was mentioned. Or “arsehole!” whenever we heard Brad called. “It’s ironic,” I reassured my Virgin housemate, who looked alarmed. Although actually, I wasn’t too sure myself. Is it alright to call a woman a slut in any way in 2017?
Probably a discussion for another day, that one. Anyway, as far as the Rocky fans in the Northcott that night were concerned, nothing was amiss. All in all, Sing-a-Long-a Rocky Horror was off to a flying start.
For those feeling a little confused right now: we were at a Sing-a-Long-a screening of 1975 cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Starring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Richard O’Brien – and Meatloaf, at one point – this bizarre musical “horror” sees young couple Brad and Janet stumble upon a mansion full of weird, wonderful and scantily-clad strangers after their car breaks down in the rain. Things escalate pretty quickly. There’s bloodshed. And sex. Lots of it.
Anyway, it didn’t take long for Rocky to seduce 1970s New Yorkers. Soon it was tradition for fans to attend regular midnight screenings – and not just to watch, but to take part. From donning a pair of fishnets to shouting things at the characters onscreen, Rocky Horror was a truly interactive experience. And still is.
“We should’ve dressed up!” I’d moaned as we arrived at the Northcott. We were talking corsets, feather boas and heels as far as the eye could see. Luckily, there were plenty more ways to be a part of the action: before showing us to our seats, the ushers handed each audience member a “party bag.” In it? A latex glove, a party popper, a tissue, a newspaper and those infamous “slut” and “arsehole” cards.
Frank N. Furter kindly took us through how and when to use each prop. He also showed us a dance. In fact, our host was admirably attentive all night. Even if he did get his knickers in a twist a few times. And shout “sing, you bitches!” at us.
But once the film got underway, it was the audience who were the stars. We did the newspaper. We did the glove. We popped our party poppers when Frank N Furter said “I’m coming!” (Under strict guidance from real-life Frank, who’d warned us that there was “nothing worse than premature popping.”)
Sure, Rocky Horror’s a tried-and-tested formula – and we all knew what to expect from our visit to the Northcott that night (except the virgins, perhaps.) But still: bringing a 1970s sex-fest to the South West could have ruffled a few feathers. After all, “It’s not easy having a good time” – but happily, the guys and gals at Sing-a-Long-a pulled it off spectacularly. Their secret? Well. It’s just a jump to the left…