A graffiti mural signalling The Rocky Horror Show’s residency has appeared outside the Stage Door of the Theatre Royal and its cast are getting ready to kick off a sequined, scarlet-lipped tour of the UK. The show’s director, Christopher Luscombe, is waxing lyrical about what he calls the show’s ‘spiritual home’.
“It’s the perfect theatre, the perfect atmosphere. Brighton has a free spirit and it just works here. I’ve been directing Rocky for 12 years and, when I started, we opened in Brighton. The show has a tradition of audience participation and most people will be dressed up as one of the characters. Goodness knows how, but they’ve learned the script and they’ll shout out lines throughout the show! During The Time Warp, the entire audience get to their feet without even thinking about it. It’s very infectious. At first, I was a bit taken aback by it!”
“That does sound like an extremely Brighton reaction,” I muse, imagining the Magentas, Columbias, Franks and (heaven forfend), Rockys, taking over the Theatre Royal.
“There’s really nothing like it. In places like Italy and Australia it’s much more like watching a normal musical – you clap at the end of the songs, laugh at the jokes. But it’s very different here in the UK. There’s a tremendous sense of ownership and some people will come every week, with a new costume for each visit. So, we feel a sense of obligation to give the audience what they want, because they love it. We have to look after their show for them.”
Does he feel a responsibility to be true to the movie at all, I ask?
“Rocky was written as a stage show and I have to make sure it’s true to the original text, to what Richard O’Brien wrote. It was written before Richard even met Tim Curry, with other influences in mind, and in the original script, Frank is American. Tim was absolutely brilliant, but you don’t go to the theatre to see an impression of someone else. You want something authentic to the actor and I encourage them to make the part their own. The company coming to Brighton is incredible – Ben Adams and Joanne Clifton are Brad and Janet, Stephen Webb is Frank and Dom Joly is the Narrator – I think it might be the strongest lineup we’ve ever had.”
“It is, in a sense, a party show. It’s a celebration of rock and transvestism. It’s camp and silly. But it’s also profound and moving. And it repays multiple visits: the lyrics are poetic and elusive and touch on different things depending on the mood you’re in when you see it. Like a lot of great poetry, you can read a lot of different things into it, there’s not one interpretation. And I think because it’s so thought-provoking, it’s lasted.”
Theatre Royal, 13th Dec - 5th Jan.